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