GEARING UP FOR THE GARDENING SEASON/SANITIZING TRAYS AND SEED STARTING EQUIPMENT

WASHED AND SANITIZED SEED TRAYS, SOIL BLOCK INSERTS AND CELL CONTAINERS

I just completed one of my least favorite gardening activities; washing and sanitizing seed trays and inserts. My wife Catherine hates it as well. I take over her kitchen on sanitizing day, for the whole day. I own the sink, the counter next to the sink, the island top and 24 square feet of floor space. I would love to have a full function potting shed with hot water, long waterproof counters, a half bath and a quality music playback system. OK. I don’t have that. I make due.

I lay down a contractor sized trash bag on the counter, lay a large towel on top of that and place a large tray (20″ x 30″ x 6″) on top of that. If fill the large tray with a water/bleach solution with a 9/1 water/bleach ratio.

I first wash each piece in soapy water, rinse and dry. Then, I soak each piece for ten minutes in the water/bleach solution. In order to save time, I soak both a tray and an insert at the same time. After drying off, my stuff is ready to rock.

Are you tired yet? I know that I am. Note to self: Research an easier way to do this.

I use a quart size measuring cup full of water to weigh down the trays and inserts

I try to look at this exercise philosophically. This is the test you have to pass every year to prove your resolve and passion for gardening. Weeding sucks just as bad as sanitizing trays. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” , right? Are you a gardener or not? It’s not all veggies, fruit and flowers.

Part of the process is the triage operation of repairing minor holes and cracks in the trays.  Shoe Goo for the holes and duct tape for the cracks works pretty well.  Trays in the worst condition get tossed.

ONE MORE THING:  I just found a cheap source for heavy duty 1020 seedling trays.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been disappointed with the quality of the 1020 trays that I purchase from my local garden center and Coop.  I will let you know what I think.  Until then,  get it going.  Gardening season is here, now.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

A GREEN HARVEST JUST IN TIME FOR SAINT PATRICK’S DAY

A GREEN HARVEST JUST IN TIME FOR SAINT PATRICK’S DAY

The last couple of weeks have been mostly wet and muddy. We have been fortunate the last few days to have dry conditions which made it possible to spend some time in the vegetable garden. There’s not much going on out there except for the mache patch that I have growing in a small low plastic tunnel.

THE LOW TUNNEL WHERE I GROW MY MACHE

I was able to harvest enough mache to add to our dinner of white pizza. We got the idea for this pizza from watching an episode of “Milk Street” on PBS. The pizza topping consists of equal parts whipped heavy cream, grated Parmigiano cheese and grated Fontina cheese. You put the topping on your favorite pizza dough, bake it and then top it with greens that have been dressed with a olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Mache was the perfect green to top our pizza with its nutty flavor and satisfying chew. My wife Catherine is a huge fan of this particular pizza as well as being a fan of “Milk Street”.

WHITE PIZZA WITH MACHE

The dough recipe that I used comes from a book called “The Elements of Pizza” by Ken Forkish. The style of dough is referred to as “Neopolitan” and produces a thin and chewy crust.

What a treat to have fresh greens from the garden. Thus begins the first season in our gardening year, “Mache Madness”.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

MAKING A PLAN

MAKING A PLAN

Let’s face it, Winter sucks. However, I don’t go South like some people I know. Instead, I spend my time thinking about Spring; specifically, vegetable gardening. I really enjoy looking through seed catalogs, consulting my garden journal to see what worked last year and what didn’t, and planning this year’s garden.

To that end, I have developed a spreadsheet to help me keep track of my seeds and now to help plan my planting schedule. I start my serious planning by taking an inventory of the seeds that I have on hand. I check for quantity and for age. Seeds lose their viability with the passage of time.

Some seeds (think corn) are only good for one year. Others are viable for up to four years. Then they’ve gotta go.

True story: My Dad gave me his old hermetically sealed seed case when he got too old to garden back in the mid-nineteen nineties. There were seeds from the 1970’s in that case.

GETTING ORGANIZED
SEED INVENTORY AND PLANTING SCHEDULE SPREADSHEET

HOW I USE MY SPREADSHEET

  • List seed varieties by type of crops (leaf, fruit, root, legumes, herbs, flowers
  • When I know it, I try to include days to maturity
  • I list the year that is listed on the seed packet
  • I list the quantity of seeds remaining. Some quantities are approximations which is fine for this exercise.
  • I also list supplier
  • I color code indoor starting month, planting out month and harvest month (This helps make sure that I don’t overplant or underplant things like lettuce, cabbage, etc.

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

The larger and more diverse the garden the more one will benefit from careful planning up front.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

gcgarnache@gmail.com

A LOVELY NEW YEAR’S DAY

A LOVELY NEW YEAR’S DAY

THE “PEEPSTER” STALKING THE CHICKENS

We were blessed with a mild and sunny start to the New Year. I couldn’t resist the urge to get some rays and fresh air, so I put on a light jacket and headed outside with my little female cat, “Peep”. We call her Peep because that’s how she speaks. We let the chickens out of their pen and we all enjoyed a winter frolic.

PEEP AND THE CHICKENS GETTING REACQUAINTED

While I was out, I checked on the status of my small patch of mache and “Red Kitten” spinach. I opened up the low tunnel covering them to sneak a peek and give them an early winter watering with fertilizer. So far, so good. We have had critter issues for the last couple of winters. Voles have done a number on the mache patch and the winter carrots. However, the “Peepster” seems to be making a difference. So far, I am not noticing any signs of vole activity in or near the mache. Peep is a relentless hunter of rodents. Winter doesn’t seem to damp her enthusiasm for the out of doors nor her pursuit of all things rodent.

MACHE GROWING SLOWLY IN A LOW TUNNEL

I have to admit that I was losing my mojo toward the end of the last growing season. All it took was a sunny day, seeing the mache and enjoying a sunny day with Peep and “the girls”.

Here’s wishing you all a productive and fun gardening year.

All the best,

Greg Garnache gcgarnache@gmail.com

MY NEARLY NAKED TOMATO PLANTS

MY NEARLY NAKED TOMATO PLANTS

It’s hard to believe, but another vegetable gardening season is winding down.  It is late September; many of the beds are bare, and there is a sense of urgency to ripen the last fruiting crops, especially tomatoes.  All of the determinate plum tomato plants are in the compost pile, but I still have some indeterminate tomatoes slowly ripening – excruciatingly slow.

THE TOMATO PATCH IN LATE SUMMER

THE TOMATO PATCH SEVERELY PRUNED IN MID SEPTEMBER

In order to encourage these few stragglers, I have severely pruned the plants and culled out some of the fruit.  Each surviving plant has been fertilized as well.  We have been averaging one ripe tomato every few days, so the effort does produce results.

A “MADAME MARMANDE” TOMATO TAKING IT’S SWEET TIME VINE RIPENING

This procedure has also been done to our two “Matt’s Wild Cherry” tomato plants.  At some point in early August, I run out of patience with these plants and let them be their wild selves.  In late September, I take my revenge.  It typically takes a good hour/hour and a half to tame these suckers.  Given that they are always the last plants standing,  going until the first killing frost, it is worth the effort.

“MATT’S WILD CHERRY” TOMATO PLANTS BEFORE FALL PRUNING

Because of their thin skins and superior taste, “Matt’s Wild Cherry” tomatoes have been grown in my garden every year for the last couple of decades.

“MATT’S WILD CHERRY” TOMATO PLANTS AFTER LATE SEPTEMBER PRUNING

A parting word:  Every extra day of being able to make a sandwich that includes a slice of vine ripened tomato is a gift.

All the best,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                          gcgarnache@gmail.com

 

 

 

TOMATOES – TWO EARLY VARIETIES WE LOVE

TOMATOES – TWO EARLY VARIETIES WE LOVE

The “Main Season” tomato season is almost here, but we have been enjoying two excellent tomatoes that begin to ripen ahead of the other varieties.

The first of these tomatoes is an heirloom  called BLACK KRIM.  This tomato is not going to win prettiest in show, but it’s superior taste  more than makes up for it’s rustic appearance.  Originally grown on the Island of Krim in the Black Sea, seeds began to move all over Europe after the Crimean War in the Nineteenth century.  In the 1990’s, seeds began to migrate to the United States.

BLACK KRIM TOMATO – AN EARLY MAIN SEASON HEIRLOOM TOMATO

We have been growing Black Krim tomatoes off and on for at least fifteen years.  It is reliably two weeks ahead of the rest of the pack.  If you are looking to have a longer tomato season, you may want to consider this old favorite.

The second tomato that we offer for your consideration  is MOMOTARO, a hybrid from Japan.  I know what you are thinking: “Japan? Hybrid?”    Yes, the Japanese love their tomatoes and this variety was bred for taste, not how well it handles being shipped across country.  Momotaro begins to ripen two or three days after Black Krim, so  I put this in the main season early ripening bucket.

The taste is wonderful.  Not quite as acidic as other varieties, Momotaro has a lovely sweet quality with nice depth of flavor.  Most of the fruit is handsome in appearance as well as tasty.  Again, I have been growing this variety periodically for many years and always look forward to adding it to the mix.  I usually purchase seeds for this variety from Territorial Seeds.

MOMOTARO – A JAPANESE HYBRID TOMATO WITH GREAT TASTE

One of the great advantages to gardening is that you get to choose what you grow.  If you are looking for something new, give one or both of these varieties a try.  Next week, I will follow up with a post highlighting the other varieties I am growing this year.

All the best,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                        gcgarnache@gmail.com

 

 

 

ATTRACTING POLLINATORS TO THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

ATTRACTING POLLINATORS TO THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

Recently, I had a conversation with my friends Bill and Flavia.  They asked me how my vegetable garden was doing and that led to some concern on their part that their vine crops (pumpkins and zucchini specifically) were not producing any fruit.  My first question to them was, “Are you growing any flowers nearby to attract pollinators?”  The answer was “No”.

These are two smart people.  I was a little surprised that they didn’t know that you need to be pro-active in attracting bees and butterflies to your garden.  No pollinators, no squash, no zucchini, no pumpkins, etc.  Every year, I start seeds of cosmos and zinnia to attract bees and butterflies.  In addition, we have a border of lavender just outside the entrance to the vegetable garden.  Honey bees love lavender and so do bumble bees and mason bees.

ZINNIAS AND COSMOS INSIDE THE GARDEN WITH LAVENDER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GATE

We also have lots of flowers planted around the property within proximity to the vegetable garden.  We have daisies, calendula, nasturtiums, tassel flower, cone flower, milk weed, and a population of flowers in my wife’s perennial gardens that I can’t even begin to list.  I don’t know what those flowers are, but they attract pollinators as well.

MORE FLOWERS THAT ATTRACT BEES AND BUTTERFLIES

As a start, I would recommend planting cosmos near your vine crops.  Zinnias also do a good job of attracting bees and butterflies.  This is very important to gardening success and also adds some much needed color to the vegetable garden.  The French take great pride in their vegetable gardens and give flowers, especially varieties that attract pollinators, plenty of space among the vegetables.

A BED OF COSMOS

Bill, Flavia and anyone else reading this post;  I hope that you can find some room for flowers in your vegetable garden.  You will be rewarded.

All the best,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                         gcgarnache@gmail.com

A DAY WITH GRANDPA IN THE GARDEN

A DAY WITH GRANDPA IN THE GARDEN

My entire family recently spent  the week with us at Greg’s Garden Party.  The grandchildren had a blast playing with their cousins, taking turns riding on the battery powered ATV, going for lawn tractor rides with Grandpa, running under the lawn sprinkler,  and harvesting fruit and vegetables.

THEO AND VIVI HARVESTING CARROTS

We have pulled carrots and onions, dug for potatoes (their favorite) and picked raspberries.  Needless to say, sharing one of my favorite pastimes with my grandchildren is beyond description.  Teaching them where their food comes from and how much fun it is to be able to pick from your own garden are lessons that I hope will stay with them forever.

My hope is that this exposure will kindle a desire to garden just like Grandpa does.  That would make me very happy.

After the grandchildren had their time in the garden with Grandpa they had the opportunity to help Gram in the kitchen.  Times like these are what life is all about.

HELPING “GRAM” MAKE PESTO

All the best,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                        gcgarnache@gmail.com

CELERY UPDATE

CELERY UPDATE

Back in February of this year I mentioned in a post that I was growing celery for the first time in ten years and that I was following the advise received from a video by an Asian woman named Regine.  I was so intrigued that I decided to give it a try.    We started seeds back in February  as the germination period is quite long compared to lettuce and cabbage.  Also, the seedlings take a long time to mature enough to set out in the garden.

I followed Regine’s advice and spaced the seedlings approximately 8 inches apart.  We have 16 plants growing in a space that is 3′ x 4′.  Celery is happiest in near swamp conditions, so I have been watering the patch every day, sometimes twice a day.

The results have been excellent.  We harvest individual stocks from each plant and have been harvesting for over a month now.

 

MY TINY BUT VERY PRODUCTIVE CELERY PATCH.  NOTE THE SCREENING TO SIMULATE IDEAL CONDITIONS.

We are growing a variety called “Tango”.  We have been using the celery in stir fries, salad,  mirepoix, and as a salad all by itself.    The celery patch is just beginning to show some signs of playing out due to the heat.  I have already started more seeds for a fall crop.  All in all, a very good success.

Here is the link to the video I mentioned:https://www.asiangarden2table.com/video/how-to-grow-celery-from-seeds%EF%BC%88%E8%A5%BF%E8%8A%B9%EF%BC%89/

Happy gardening,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                        gcgarnache@gmail.com

THE SECOND SEASON IS HERE

THE SECOND SEASON IS HERE

It is hard to believe, but the second half of the gardening season is happening right now.  It seems that the older I get, the faster the time goes.

My usual indicator is the garlic patch.  We harvest the garlic scapes in June.  When the leaves of the garlic plants start browning in late July, it’s time to pull those suckers.

THE GARLIC PATCH READY TO HARVEST

I typically harvest the plants and give them a few days to dry out.  Then I cut off the stems and roots and polish off the dirt on the garlic heads with a towel.  It is slow work, best done with some good music in the background, a cold beer within reach and the company (and help) of friends and loved ones.

HARVESTED GARLIC DRYING OUT

GARLIC ALL CLEANED UP AND READY TO STORE

Why do I call this the “Second Season”?  Good question.  Harvesting the garlic sets in motion a new round of gardening activity.  Now that the garlic is harvested, it is time to plant the fall carrots in that plot.  Harvesting and replanting will be repeated several more times as the various onion varieties come to harvest.  I will start seeds of red beet and golden beet, many more carrots, and more green onions.

As this is happening, some of my hot weather crops are beginning to bear fruit.  We have recently harvested three zucchini and two eggplants.  In addition, we now have some lovely jalapeno peppers.  The cool weather crops are now giving way to the sexier hot weather crops.  The happiness factor is trending upwards.

A SHOT OF ONE OF MY FRUIT CROP BEDS. ZUCCHINI ON THE LEFT WITH EGGPLANT AND SWEET PEPPERS TO THE RIGHT. INDETERMINATE TOMATOES IN THE REAR.

HERE IS A CLOSEUP SHOT OF THE ZUCCHINI PLANTS.

CHECK OUT THESE BAD BOYS. THE VARIETY IS CALLED “MEATBALL.” EACH CLOCKED IN AT ONE POUND..

So far, it has been a pretty good gardening year.  Here’s hoping the “Second Season” is just as satisfying.

All the best in life and gardening,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                         gcgarnache@gmail.com