GARDEN JOURNAL – 3RD WEEK OF FEBRUARY- DIGGING OUT

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DUSK IN LATE WINTER AT GREG’S GARDEN PARTY

On Sunday past we received a small gift from Mother Nature in the
form of a mild and sunny day, the first day in months to record a
temperature in the low 40’s.  No snow, no gusty winds;    just a
relatively pleasant day.  I’ts about time.  This has been the hardest
Winter in decades, perhaps a lifetime.  I let the “girls” out of the
chicken coop, grabbed a shovel and dug my way into the vegetable
garden.  After some  heavy shoveling I reached my destination; the
late fall/winter greens bed.  I covered this bed in the fall with plastic to extend the growing season and to overwinter some crops for early
Spring.

A little beat up but still viable

A little beat up but still viable

After having spent the winter completely covered in snow, the
tunnel wasn’t exactly photo ready.  Hey, it did stay together and for
that I am thankful.  Another two or three weeks and we will be enjoying
our first crop of the new year, Mache.  Mache is very popular in France,
Belgium and other temperate zone European countries.  The common
name for it in the States is “corn salad”.  Mache grows as a rosette with
a nice mouth feel and a mild nutty taste.  It has become one of our
favorite greens and we look forward to Mache season every year.

Here I am with one of the "girls".

Here I am with one of the “girls”.

We celebrated the day with some steaks on the grill, the first of the year.
With Spring less than a month away, it’s time to start some seeds under
the lights.   The party is starting!
All the best,

Greg

TAKING A SEED INVENTORY

TAKING A SEED INVENTORY

One of my favorite Winter pastimes is looking at seed catalogs.  However, before I order anything I take an inventory of the seeds that I have left over from last year.  Most vegetable seeds are viable for three or four years,  so I am likely to have about 125 containers of seeds to keep track of.  About ten years ago I started a spreadsheet to help make sense of it all. I group the seeds by type and make note of the following information: variety, date of purchase,  quantity of seeds on hand, and supplier.  I also include a column for start dates.  I throw out seeds that have gone past their viability period.  It’s funny, I’ve found that most seed suppliers want you to believe that seeds are only good for one or two seasons.  In my experience, the only crop that has single season viability is corn.  Everything else is good for three or four years. The next thing I check is seed quantity.  If I’m low or out of something, I highlight that line in red.  Before I order, I make note of all the highlighted items. I also take the opportunity to check my journal for notes about a particular variety to make sure that I haven’t overlooked anything that might cause me to try something different.

Being organized about your seed inventory is a very good first step toward a great gardening season. It’s time to “get it on”.
All the best,
Greg
gcgarnache@gmail.com

WHAT? ANOTHER SNOWY DAY?

WHAT? ANOTHER SNOWY DAY?

According to the Boston Globe, the greater Boston area has received in excess of
80″ of snow since the end of January and we are in the  middle of yet another blizzard.  Thankfully, I have a reliable and capable
snow blower.  It gets quite a workout every storm.  In addition to
our 100 foot driveway, I have to clear the path to the back door,
a path out to the chicken coop and workshop, a connecting path
to the garden shed and another path out to the equipment shed.
forget about a path into the garden.  Speaking of which, the  snow
has completely buried my three low plastic tunnels.  I’ll worry
about them in March when the mache is ready for picking.

The chickens foraging in the snow

The chickens foraging in the snow


Our chickens are not liking the extremely limited area available to them for
foraging. But, they have been laying eggs.  I like to think that it has something
to do with the time I spend with them every day and the treats that they find
every morning in the pen.  I give them a variety of good food.  Until the massive
snow fall I could still access kale and Brussels Sprouts leaves in the garden.  At
the moment I am spoiling them with “Party Mix” for chickens.  We’re talking
mealy worms with cracked corn.  Yum!  The girls seem to like it.  By far their
favorite treat at the moment is green beans.  I froze 10 bags this summer.  We
tried them and weren’t impressed.  On a whim, I tossed some into the pen.  That
had an immediate impact on them.  They began to display the worst of animal
behavior; stealing from one another, trying to muscle each other out to have
exclusive access, etc.  Needless to say, I was very happy that someone liked my
green beans.

This week I started some leek seeds indoors.  In order for the leek plants to
grow large enough to survive transplanting out to the garden, it is necessary for
me to get them started now.

20 row seeder

20 row seeder

72 cell tray

72 cell tray


I started my seeds in a twenty row seeder tray,
planting 10 seeds per row approximately 1″ apart.  When the seedlings get
large enough to handle they will be transplanted to individual cells in a 72 cell
tray.  The ultimate goal is to transplant 50 seedlings into the garden in mid May.  This year, I am growing a variety called BANDIT.  I like
the fact that I will be able to leave some of the plants in the ground
this fall to over winter for early spring picking.  It’s one of my little
season extending tricks. We celebrate Spring by making a
focaccia topped with caramelized leeks.  The leeks add subtle flavor.
I grow leeks because they are expensive to buy.  Buying seeds costs about as
much as purchasing own bundle (3 leeks)  at the market.  A packet contains 250 seeds.  Do the math.  In addition, our wonderful daughter-in-law,
Lauren, is allergic to onions so the leeks are a safe alternative.  Stay tuned for
transplanting instructions this May.

The snow fall may have dampened the party somewhat, but starting the first
seeds of the season has me thinking good thoughts about the future.    Think  Spring!
All the best,

Greg

gcgarnache@gmail.com