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Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dual Purpose in the Garden


Even though we have a large garden, we still try to apply the permaculture principle of stacking in some of our plant variety selections. Many times it is to save work, and sometimes it saves on space to choose a dual purpose type of plant.  Celeriac or celery root is one, I no longer grow celery, since the celery root is growing all summer anyway, does not require the water that celery does, and a few leaves taken for the kitchen here and there barely make a dent in the crop. Another is hardneck garlic which puts on scapes and gives me a lot of extra garlic for cooking and preserving.

Music garlic scapes
Sometimes we find these gems right under our noses.  What to do with hardneck garlic scapes?  They come on at once and giving them away is about like trying to give away zucchini during August.

garlic scapes for the freezer
My solution to run them through the food processor and freeze them has changed the way I look at my garlic now.  Previously come tomato processing time, I would spend lots of time peeling garlic for roasting for sauce and salsa, and I was always a little worried about using too much of my winter garlic supply.  Now I use the mild scapes for my tomato roasting endeavors.  Chopping would work fine too, but if you have a food processor you can make short work of a lot scapes.  To fully maximize the potential, I freeze the scapes in half pint canning jars.  Initially I froze the scapes in larger quantities and found that once I thawed them out, I needed to use them up fast.  And you know garlic, a little goes a long way.  One cup of chopped scapes seasons a large roasting pan of tomatoes or other vegetables perfectly, and really saves me time too.  No more peeling and chopping, but you do have to remember to thaw out the scapes beforehand. 

What types of stacking have you discovered in your garden or kitchen?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our Personal Food Security

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Personal food security can come in many shapes. It may be a pantry of stored goods if you don't have land, or it may be a relationship with a farmer in the form of a CSA or local farmers market. Because we do have land, our personal form of food security takes shape in our livestock and our gardens. For this post though, I'm just going to talk about our vegetable gardening and specifically what season extension means to us.


We have several lines of defense that we employ in our garden, mainly an unheated greenhouse and variety selection for cold hardiness. Although our last three springs have been very cool and wet, that is still really the norm for our rain forest area. Our ground is rarely dry enough to work until late April at best, and sometimes into May. Our maritime climate is mild, but damp and cool, making it hard to even bring some common warm weather crops to ripeness in a normal summer. That's just the way it is. Instead of bemoaning the fact about the weather or wet soil conditions it's much more uplifting to just adapt and get on with gardening.


No, a greenhouse and row covers are not natural, but they are really a pretty passive way to make an end run around weather and pest conditions, and they allow me to stay home and grow food for most of the year, instead of driving 15 miles to the nearest store to buy "fresh" from California food. Or even sillier in my case, driving 25 miles to buy fresh from Oregon vegetables that have traveled 85 miles and been grown in the pretty much the same conditions that I can duplicate right here with a hoophouse and some row cover. I prefer to stay home and grow my food.

Hakurei turnips under row cover.

Inexpensive row cover can help you avoid using pesticides and really make a difference on the success of many crops. If you're careful, the row cover can be re-used many times.

Five Color Silverbeet.

Our experiment last winter was to take the cover off the greenhouse to avoid any snow events, and to expose the soil to the vagaries of the winter weather. To that end we planted cold hardy (in our area) crops that we hoped would take us through the winter and into spring. The stalwarts turned out to be Swiss Chard, various Kales, and Bok Choy. When it was time to plant for spring though, we had to make the decision of what to keep on and what to kill out. We harvested 10 pounds of kale greens and fed the rest of the kale to the laying hens, and decided to dig up the chard plants and replant them after working the soil, we did that with our strawberry bed as well. The chard plants have been providing us with some greens while we wait for our new plantings to grow to harvest stage.

Red Long of Tropea onion.

When I look at our greenhouse, I see a garden, not long rows of any one thing, but a climate I can manage while I wait for our outside gardens to be ready for planting. One half is devoted to beds of many different things, and the other half is reserved for our warm weather crops that will be planted when the weather moderates a little.


Tristar everbearing strawberries.


Mustard bed.

Soon our greens will be ready to harvest and will make a welcome addition to the nettles and dandelions we have been able to gather.


That's just a peek into our part of our food security, what type of methods to you use to bring food to your pantry and table?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stalwart Kale

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Kale is the new black it seems in the vegetable gardening world. Not just for garnishing the salad bar anymore, kale has found its way into many dishes and can be a stand alone side dish.


I like it for its hardiness in the garden too; in our climate kale survives throughout the winter, and can become perennialized if you have the space to leave it be. From tender leaves for salad, to hardy braising greens, and finally raab in the spring for a broccoli-like treat. A vegetable that produces many meals from one tiny seed is pretty amazing!

Urban gardeners take heart, the beautiful colors and shapes of the various types of kale make it a great decorative plant for fitting in beds amongst non-edibles too.

Easier to grow and more productive than spinach, the recipe possibilities are endless from lasagna florentine to kale chips, you choose.

For a good selection of kale seeds of all shapes and colors my go-to seed company is Wild Garden Seeds. You can select specific types or the Wild Garden Kale mix for a grab bag effect in the garden.

Plant kale - you can't go wrong!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Farmstead Checklist for February

by Throwback at Trapper Creek


Moulin Rouge sunflower

My checklist for February may be different than many of my readers due to weather conditions but I hope you can find something of use here for your like season.

Check garlic and other overwintering alliums for growth and mulch as needed for weed control.

Take hardwood cuttings of small fruits such as: grape, kiwi, currant, and gooseberry.

Harvest scionwood of fruit trees such as apple and pear for grafting.

Divide perennials such as rhubarb, hops and horseradish, & raspberries.

Order seeds if you haven't already.

Start seeds of slow growers like celery root, and herbs.

Take a freezer/pantry inventory now that winter is waning and see if you really need so much of whatever is left. Adjust seed order and garden plan accordingly.

Inventory food preservation supplies, stock up on lids etc.

Order chicks.

Check chick equipment and repair or replace as needed.

That is just a few things we've been working on, I've had a two year hiatus in the dairy department so I will be dusting off my milking supplies, ordering fresh minerals for my heifer, and getting prepared for the big event in May.

How does your list differ from mine? Are the differences weather or season related?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Patio fruit

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
Since gaining our allotment last year, our patio container garden has fallen by the wayside a little, which I have spoken about before.We have lots of large deep pots standing empty for much of the year, being dug over by cats and colonized by weeds. I have been debating how best to use the patio for some months.

Patios have their advantages and disadvantages as growing spaces. Whilst you are restricted to growing a relatively narrow range of compact crops in pots, high maintenance plants that require specialist feeding or frost protection can lend themselves to container growing. Patios tend to regulate heat over the course of a day, the slabs warming up faster in the day and losing that heat slowly overnight. They may even provide a longer growing season than bare earth.

Our allotment also has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it has deep open rich soil in which most things will thrive with a little attention. On the other hand is a paradise for winged things - everything from sparrows to Canada geese; and the evidence of the war on birds is everywhere. Metres and metres of netting cover fruit trees and in some cases, whole plots are caged. Apart from two very thorny gooseberries that should look after themselves, we have declined to install any other fruit on our small plot.

Back to our patio - there are no winged things, or rodents. Thanks to the huge cat and fox population, my neighbours elaborate bird feeding station has been visited only by a very aggressive magpie. Which makes our neighborhood perfect fruit growing territory from a pest point of view. All manner of fruit can be grown in containers. The cats are less likely to dig over containers with large, perennial plants in than they are seedlings. The trees and bushes will add some vertical interest to the garden and make the most productive use of space. Unfortunately, there is a lag time of a few years before trees will produce fruit, making me wish I had made the investment years ago. As that did not happen, there is no time to start like the present.

The initial investment in large containers, soil and plants is large in comparison with a packet of seeds, but the pay off is a relatively low maintenance, high output garden. Apart from regular watering and some seasonal pruning and possibly some pest or frost protection, the 'gardener's shadow' is less important to success than growing annuals.

This year we have invested in an apple on a dwarfing rootstock, which will restrict its height to a maximum of two metres and a cherry tree of similar stature. Thanks to their height, they can sit against a short north facing wall and catch the sun, turning a cold and dark edge of the patio into something more productive and pretty. This year we plan to add a self fertile kiwi which will be trained up a rose arch. We have added a grape that will be trained as a standard and are now considering a fig tree, which fruit best when its roots are restricted. If I had space to overwinter one indoors, I would consider a citrus tree also.

On a personal note, there is something wholesome and soothing about a tree, especially a fruit tree, something that stirs in me when I look out over the garden and see the twigs starting to bud. Which is a good enough reason as any to go forth and plant.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You Say Potato...

By Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

The humble potato.  It is one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet and the 3rd largest crop grown around the world.

This is my second year of growing potatoes, with the first year being successful enough, so I thought that I would expand my spud growing operation this year.  This is my patch from about the same time last year.


Anyway, this year I thought a bit bigger.  After watching Gardening Australia last Saturday, and getting a better understanding on how to plant potatoes, I made my bed much bigger and higher.


It is 2.4 x 1.2 metres and should be large enough to get a good crop.  I used a garden fork and dug down about 25 cm into the soil, and then built it up with the compost that I had laying all over the area in two smaller beds.  I sprinkled liberally with pelletised chicken manure, added a few handfuls of blood and bone and some sheep manure, turned it over again and gave it a good soaking with the hose.  Then I dug three trenches and mounded up the sides.

Then I collected the potatoes that I have been chitting for the last week.

Dutch Cream


Toolangi Delight

I kept them out of direct sunlight and the eyes grew so that I could tell which way was up when I planted them out.


The trenches in the spud bed were about 75 cm apart and about the same in depth.  Then I placed the potatoes in each trench with the eyes facing upwards.


Then I covered each row (5cm) with compost from the Aerobin, which was more like worm castings, then some more compost from the other bin that had been sitting for 6 months.  The next layer was about 5cm of soil which I then watered in well.


As the growing tips poke their heads through the soil, I will cover them up again until the trench becomes a mound.  The soil is very friable, which is just how potatoes love their environment.  All things being well, we will have a bumper harvest this year.  More on this beds progress as the season moves along.

We just love our roast, mash, salad, and jacket potatoes!  A.A. Milne said it best with, "What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow."

So in closing I would just like to share this tribute to the potato.  May everyones spud harvest meet their expectations!






I love spuds!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sowing Seeds for the Future

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Incorporating children into garden and farm plans is a investment in our future.

Not everyone farms, I know, but many people garden and sometimes I see gardens that are only planted with delayed gratification plants, like tomatoes, corn and potatoes. All good, but to a child whose attention span and grasp of time is different than ours, waiting for a tomato to ripen can take forever.

If I had a wish it would be that gardeners with small children would do more succession sowing so that kids get the idea that the garden can actually feed you. Eating daily from the garden, even just one thing, plants the idea that you don't go to the store all the time for your food. It may take some time to find out the combination of what to plant for kids that they will eat on a regular basis, (my teenager eats greens) it may be salad, peas, cherry tomatoes, or mild salad turnips.

If I had another wish it would be that you let your children help you in all aspects of gardening, not just eating, but soil prep, planting and weeding, and finally harvesting. Allowing your children to help will give them more of a stake in the garden. Gardening is a huge opportunity for learning about plants, and insects, and the 3 R's too. Reading seed packets, writing labels, and calculating how much to plant take the boredom out of "school" type activities. Little hands become deft when handling the big job of planting tiny seeds. Sure, they will make mistakes, planting, weeding and harvesting, but it won't be the end of the world.

We have to be careful about what message we send to our children about work and self-worth. Do you go to the health club to work out, or do you stay home and weed your garden and exercise all your body alongside your child? Do you pay someone else to do your "dirty" jobs while you take vacations? As long as we keep our children isolated from the real work of gardening and farming we limit their chances of being successful gardeners or farmers if they choose to follow those pursuits.

Farming and gardening may not be in your child's future but the skills and life lessons they pick up along the way will stand them in good stead in any profession.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making Peace with Tomato Horn Worms


When I first started growing tomatoes I used to pick off the tomato or tobacco hornworms and squish them with a rock. Then one year I missed one and spotted it with the tiny white eggs from a parasitic wasp on it's back. Ever since then I've made peace with the hornworms in my garden. I never pick them off or do anything to get rid of them. They get to eat some tomatoes leaves and a tomato here and there in complete peace. Why the change of heart? Making Peace with Horn WormsI don't want to get rid of them and risk the parasitic wasp not having a host for it's eggs. I also don't want the birds to go hungry, as they seem to find these giant juicy worms a complete breakfast. The truth is they're not that damaging to tomato plants and I can plant extra plants just for them. Perhaps a little defoliation is good for tomatoes this time of year and I don't mind losing a couple tomatoes, I have plenty to go around. The truth is that often when we step in we upset the balance of nature and make our problems worse down the line. If we squish or kill all the hornworms we'll never have the braconid wasps in our gardens. Without the wasps we'll end up with more hornworms, aphids and other insects. We may also inadvertently kill a hornworm that has already been parasitized by a wasp since it takes a few days before the white worms appear on their backs. Making Peace with Horn WormsI'm convinced that I'm encouraging biodiversity in my garden by making peace with hornworms and other things viewed as "pests". I have noticed that the less I interfere with nature the more balanced things become, even in my small quarter acre garden. I encourage you to let the hornworms and other pests live and see how everything balances out in a few years!

Do you have any pests that you've made peace with?

Here's an interesting article from the BBC about how plants can send out SOS signals to predatory insects when they sense they're being attacked by caterpillars & other insects. And the specifically studies hornworms.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cover Crops, Not Just for Farmers


Over the past couple years I've been experimenting with cover crops in my garden. So far I've planted: crimson clover, hairy vetch, winter rye, buckwheat, fall cover crop mix, spring cover crop mix and various other legumes. Cover crops play a variety of roles in your garden. Use them to protect soil during the winter, they prevent erosion while improving it. They can also help control nematodes and mitigate other soil issues. They work beautifully as a suppression crop on a newly made garden keeping the weeds at bay.
Crimson clover is my favorite, it's a beautiful cover crop. The first time it bloomed in my garden 2 years ago I knew I'd be using it for years to come. It grows quickly, smothers weeds and brings up nutrients for future crops - all this while looking fabulous!
This past winter I experimented with an overwintering cover crop mix. It contained: winter rye, hairy vetch and crimson clover. It started growing last fall and reached a height of about 6 inches. Throughout the winter it went dormant and protected the soil. This spring as soon as it warmed up slightly the rye started growing. Soon enough the vetch joined in and before long it was almost 4 feet tall.
I chopped it down last week as the vetch was just beginning to bloom. Using pruners, I cut it down in 6-8 inch segments and then went to work digging it into the soil. Before long my neighbor came over inquiring if I was wanting to work up the soil. He'd just purchased a new toy and was itching to use it. A few minutes he returned with his new tiller and starting working the cover crop into the soil. Mr Chiots came out and did the rest while I chatted with our neighbor.
I source my cover crop seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds. They have a great selection of single crops and mixtures, just about everything you'll ever need. Here's a great chart from them to help you chose the right crop for your application (click on the image to view larger, readable version that you can save if you want to).
It's quite amazing the difference a cover crop will make when it comes to improving the soil. It takes patience because you have to wait for it to grow, buy it's certainly an inexpensive way to amend large areas of soil. I'm looking forward to trying a few other varieties. I currently have mustard seeds and I'm looking forward to trying a turnip as well. Now that I have a new large garden they'll come in handy for smothering weeds on the newly cleared land and they'll improve the soil in the process so it will be ready when it comes time to grow vegetables!

Do you ever use cover crops in your garden?