Chicken Chronicles –  Happy Hour at the Kale Bar

Chicken Chronicles – Happy Hour at the Kale Bar

Ever since they were five weeks old, our chickens have had a “thing” for kale.  As an experiment, I threw a couple kale leaves into their pen.  After a few test pecks, the “girls” devoured the kale.  This has become a daily ritual.  In fact, a friend of ours coined a new phrase;  “I’m on it, like chickens on kale”.  (Catherine Dyer)

This season, I came up with the idea of planting a couple of containers with kale and “Purple Peacock”, a broccoli/kale hybrid.  All I can say is that we have some happy chickens.

KALE BAR OPEN FOR BUSINESS

KALE BAR OPEN FOR BUSINESS

THE CHICKENS ENJOYING AN AFTERNOON SNACK AT THE KALE BAR

THE CHICKENS ENJOYING AN AFTERNOON SNACK AT THE KALE BAR

KALE BAR TERRORIZED BY CHICKENS

KALE BAR TERRORIZED BY CHICKENS

As you can see, it’s a good idea to have several containers of kale that you can rotate into service.  It takes a couple of weeks for the plants to recover, but they do recover.   Chickens do like a diverse menu.  They are especially drawn to members of the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale).  Go ahead, spoil your chickens.

all the best,

Greg

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of July

It’s hard to believe that nearly two weeks have passed since my last post.  We’ve been in travel mode; first to New Orleans to see our new grandson Theo and then out to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts for some culture.  Needless to say, I came home to a vegetable garden in need of some love.  Thankfully, most of the love involved harvesting.

Garlic Ready for Harvest

Before we left for New Orleans, the garlic plants were beginning to look like they were ready to be pulled.  I noticed traces of browning on the leaf tips.  When we returned from our trip the garlic patch was definitely ready for harvest.

BROWN TIPS ON GARLIC PLANTS

THE GARLIC PATCH READY FOR HARVEST. NOTICE ALL THE BROWN TIPS.

One of the first things I did when we returned from our trip was to pull the plants and let them dry out a bit in the sunshine.  After a couple of days I cut the garlic heads from the stems with a pair of pruners and trimmed the roots off with kitchen scissors.  I then wiped off the dirt with a towel and separated the heads by the number of cloves in each.  Most of the heads had five or six cloves.

My ultimate goal is to set aside the largest heads with the largest number of cloves to use as my seed stock this Fall.  The smallest heads of garlic will be used first for cooking.

RECENTLY HARVESTED GARLIC

NEWLY HARVESTED GARLIC SEPARATED INTO 4, 5 AND 6 CLOVE HEADS

The Hot Weather Crops are Starting to Rock

We came home to cucumbers, peppers (both sweet and hot), zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant.  Some of our heirloom tomatoes are beginning to produce.  As expected, “Black Krim” is one of the early arrivals, as well as “Black Ethiopian” and an early “Rose” tomato.

OUR HARVEST BASKET ON THE FIRST DAY OF OUR  RETURN FROM VACATION

OUR HARVEST BASKET ON THE FIRST DAY OF OUR RETURN FROM VACATION

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES ON THE VINE

Last year, I received some eggplant seeds from Italy as a gift.  We are growing the same variety this year with great results.

ITALIAN EGGPLANTS

ITALIAN EGGPLANTS

Walla Walla Onions Ready for Harvest

After three months in the ground, the Walla Walla onions were finally ready for harvest, just in time for making salsa.  These mild white onions have been a favorite around our house for the last ten years or so.  We are talking “Vadalia” mild.  Do you want to add some “rock-n-roll” to your burger?  Try a nice thick slice of Walla Walla.  They are also great in salads.  Walla Walla onions don’t store well so we will try to use all of our harvest before the end of the summer.  I also enjoy making a simple cucumber and onion salad  using the Walla Walla onions.  In addition to the Walla Walla’s, we also grow red onions and a yellow storage onion which both need a couple more weeks in the ground before harvest.

WALLA WALLA ONIONS

OUR WALLA WALLA ONION HARVEST DRYING IN THE SUN

The Tomatoes are Doing Fine

One of the advantages of being away for a week was the impact of a week’s worth of growth of our tomatoes.  Many of the plants grew at least a foot with some growing 18″ or more.  Some varieties are just beginning to produce ripe fruit.  We are three weeks away from our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner”, which we offer as an auction item at our church.  I’ve lined up a professional photographer to shoot this year’s event and will devote a couple of posts to this event.  We start off with a tomato tasting.  This is the adult version of kids in a candy store.  Doing a tomato tasting is a blast.  People love trying new tomatoes and are surprised at the different taste notes that each variety displays.  If you grow a variety of  tomatoes, especially heirlooms, think about doing a tomato tasting for your friends.  Trust me, you will become a hero.

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES GROWING ON THE BACK OF THE SUNSHED

I would love to hear from you.  How are your tomatoes doing?  What varieties do you have?  Have you seen any signs of disease or the dreaded tomato horn worm?

All the best,

Greg

 

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 1st Week of July

Garden Journal – 1st Week of July

Heading into the holiday weekend, I had another wonderful week of gardening, harvesting, and maintaining my crops.  At this time of year, each week brings the debut of some new crop.  This week brought the first harvest of cauliflower, our first carrots, the first golden beets and the first raspberries of the season.  We also continued to harvest peas, asparagus, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, radishes and Glacier tomatoes.

Replacing the First Planting of Peas with Beans

It seems like only yesterday that I planted the first peas.  After giving us a couple of very productive weeks, it was time to pull those plants.  I was very careful to scrape off the nitrogen nodules on the roots of the pea plants so that they wouldn’t go to waste.  After all, that is one of the main reasons to grow peas and beans; they fix nitrogen in the soil so that next year’s leaf crops (lettuce, cabbage, spinach, mesclun, kale, corn, etc) can thrive.  They all love nitrogen.

A SECOND CROP FROM PEA PLANTS

THE ROOTS OF A PEA PLANT WITH NITROGEN NODULES ATTACHED

I replaced two rows of peas with two rows of “Vermont Cranberry” beans for drying.  We have been making more stews and soups as the years go by.  Dry beans are a great resource to have heading into the colder months.

Transplanting “Golden Treasure” Tomato Plants to the Garden

As I’ve mentioned in some of my earlier blog posts, I have been looking for ways to extend the gardening season, especially the harvest.  Regarding tomatoes, I start my season with “Glacier” ultra early tomatoes, which we have bee enjoying since the third week of June.  On the other end, I grow a storage tomato called “Golden Treasure” which actually ripens slowly in storage.  I start seeds about a month later than my main season tomatoes and put the seedlings in the ground about a month later as well.  We have enjoyed “Golden Treasure” tomatoes as late as Christmas Day.  This variety comes from “Territorial Seeds” in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Tomato Maintenance

One of the things I take pride in is the attention I give to my tomato plants.  Aside from loving the taste of tomatoes, I spend time working with my plants to assure that there will be a good crop to support the many tomato tasting events we will be hosting in August.  For the last five years, we have offered a “Tomato Lover’s Dinner” as an auction item at our church.  The dinner has become quite popular.

We start the evening off with a tomato tasting, offering seven or eight heirloom varieties to our guests.  I really enjoy serving the slices of tomato along with stories about the origins of each variety.  We also do a series of tomato tasting potluck dinners for our friends.  At the moment, we have a total of six events planned.  I will keep you all informed as we get closer.  I have even lined up a professional photographer to shoot this year’s dinner.  I will host a dinner for him and his friends the following weekend.

At this time of year I concentrate on removing suckers and leaves that touch the ground.  Also, I keep securing the tomato plants as they continue growing to their full height.

A LARGE LEAF POINTING DOWN TO THE GROUND WITH A LARGE SUCKER  ABOVE.  BOTH NEED TO BE PRUNED

A LARGE LEAF POINTING DOWN TO THE GROUND WITH A LARGE SUCKER ABOVE. BOTH NEED TO BE PRUNED

TOMATO SUCKER

A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF A SUCKER ON A TOMATO PLANT

After pruning, I sprayed all of my tomato plants with Copper fungicide to prevent “early blight”.  I take this precaution because my garden has been subjected to attacks of blight over the years.  Next week I will alternate my spraying with a product called “Oxidate” which works by oxidizing blight spores.

Transplanting Lettuce, Cabbage, broccoli and Fennel Seedlings to the Garden

The beat goes on.  In order to have a steady supply of crops throughout a long growing season I start seeds on a regular basis so that I can replace harvested crops with new stock.  This is especially true of leaf crops.  This will continue into early fall.  I can’t live without my cole slaw.

SEEDLINGS READY FOR THE GARDEN

LEAF CROPS READY FOR TRANSPLANTING OUT TO THE GARDEN

I find that using soil blocks to start the seeds makes the transition out to the garden easier for the seedlings.  The lettuce will be available for harvest in August.  The cabbage and broccoli will be ready in early September.

All the best,

Greg