Garden Journal – 3rd Week of March

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of March

Spring Comes Early This Year.

What a difference a year makes.  At this last season, we still had two feet of snow on the ground.  March in my corner of the Globe has been unusually mild this year.  I’ve already planted peas, mache, spinach, curly endive and gourmet baby lettuce seeds in the garden.  That’s right, IN THE GARDEN!  Last weekend I joked that I was embracing global warming because I could get things into the ground a whole month early.  Like many people, I am concerned about this phenomenon and thinking of ways that I can be a better steward of the acre and a half under our care.

A sure sign that we are experiencing an early Spring is that the garlic is up and poking through the bed of leaves I laid down in the Fall.  Time to take down the little fence surrounding the garlic patch and rake out those leaves.

GARLIC PLANTS POKING UP OUT OF THE GROUND

GARLIC PLANTS POKING UP OUT OF THE GROUND

We have been enjoying the “Red Kitten” spinach harvested from the garden.  It was planted last fall and grown under plastic.  My little two foot by four foot patch has produced a colander  full of spinach every other day for the last week plus.  Spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can grow, especially if you eat it raw in salads.  “Red Kitten” is especially good in this regard.

RED KITTEN SPINACH WASHED AND READY TO EAT

RED KITTEN SPINACH WASHED AND READY TO EAT

Direct Seeding in the Garden

The mild conditions at the beginning of March provided a perfect opportunity to get and early start on the growing season.  I planted no to low risk vegetables that can withstand a  frost or even a light snow.  I planted peas, mache (corn salad), spinach, frisee and a gourmet lettuce mix.  The mache was planted due to the poor production of the crop that was planted last Fall.  How disappointing!  We have had great success in the past with our mache crop.  Not sure what the issue was, but I planted fresh seeds this time. We love mache and hope that this planting will produce for us by the end of April.  The variety we grow is “Vit 419” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  I seeded a 2′ x 4′ patch.

GETTING AN EARLY START WITH DIRECT SEEDING

GETTING AN EARLY START WITH DIRECT SEEDING

We have had great success with “Tyee” spinach, another variety from Johnny’s.  It is an early season spinach, so I thought I would get’r goin’ real early.  Frisee is also a cool weather crop so I planted one row of seeds.  I like adding frisee to other salad greens for texture.

I rounded out the early planting with a 4″ wide band of “Allstar Mix” mesclun, one of our yearly favorites.  This versatile mix works well into early Summer.  I plant a band every three weeks until the hot weather arrives.  Then I switch to “Heatwave Blend”.  I will plant at least one more band of “Allstar Mix” in late Summer.  Love this stuff.  By the way, seeds are available from Johnny’s.

Starting Seeds Indoors – High Nutrition Greens

This was the week to get seeds started for transplant out to the garden in April.  With the exception of celeriac, all of the seed varieties started were high nutrition greens; three varieties of kale, broccoli raab, broccoli, cauliflower, frisee, and lettuce. This year, I am making a conscious effort to make sure that we always have nutritious greens available from the garden.  I planted the seeds into 3/4″ square soil blocks that I made with my 20 block press.  I then planted 10 seeds of each variety except the celeriac and the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce. For those I used 20 blocks.

 

SEED PACKETS READY TO GO AND THE 3/4" SOIL BLOCK MAKER SOAKING IN BETWEEN PRESSINGS

SEED PACKETS READY TO GO AND THE 3/4″ SOIL BLOCK MAKER SOAKING IN BETWEEN PRESSINGS

THE TOOLS I USE FOR SEEDING THE SOIL BLOCKS. THE TWEEZERS MAKE IT EASY TO CENTER THE SEEDS IN EACH BLOCK. I THEN PRESS THE SEEDS INTO THE BLOCK WITH THE POINTED TOOL.

THE TOOLS I USE FOR SEEDING THE SOIL BLOCKS. THE TWEEZERS MAKE IT EASY TO CENTER THE SEEDS IN EACH BLOCK. I THEN PRESS THE SEEDS INTO THE BLOCK WITH THE POINTED TOOL.

 

As we begin another gardening season I wish to express my best wishes to all of you who are reading this post.  May you all have the best gardening year of your life.  If I can be of service, please reach out.  My goal is to build a community of people who enjoy growing their own food and sharing that experience.

All the best,

Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

 

 

Garden Journal – 4th Week of December

Garden Journal – 4th Week of December

Thanks to an “El Nino” weather pattern that we hadn’t experienced in over twenty years, I was out in the vegetable garden on the Sunday before Christmas wearing a short sleeve shirt and harvesting vegetables.  We needed beets for the Christmas Borscht, carrots for Christmas evening dinner, Brussels Sprouts for slaw and other side dishes and beet greens for salad.  I also harvested more leeks for side dishes and as a topping for foccacia.

THE WINTER CARROT PATCH GROWING UNDER A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

THE WINTER CARROT PATCH GROWING UNDER A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

THE BEET PATCH THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

THE BEET PATCH THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Taking advantage of the mild weather, I opened up the tunnel containing the beet and carrot patches.  I spent some time watering and fertilizing as well as harvesting.  I was disappointed that the beets had not fully formed.  Luckily, we had frozen some roasted beets earlier in the season.  I did harvest a good supply of greens which we have been using in salads.  Harvesting carrots was basically a thinning operation to give the rest of the crop room to grow.  We got a nice harvest that we enjoyed Christmas Night with short ribs of beef and mashed potatoes.

BEET GREENS AND BABY CARROTS HARVESTED THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

BEET GREENS AND BABY CARROTS HARVESTED THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A BRUSSELS SPROUTS SLAW MADE IN DECEMBER WITH INGREDIENTS FROM THE GARDEN

BRUSSELS SPROUT SLAW

We tried something a bit different with the harvested Brussels Sprouts.  I made a slaw composed of thinly sliced Brussels Sprouts, recently harvested carrot slices and red onion harvested last Summer.  I liked it!  It went well with a batch of chili we had made for our Patriot’s couch tailgate party.

I also tried a side dish using Brussels Sprouts and leeks flavored with lime juice and zest from Suzie Middleton, one of our favorite cookbook authors and recipe creators.  As far as I’m concerned, she is a rock star when it comes to cooking vegetables.  We have her book, Fast, Fresh and Green  which has been a tremendous resource for us over the last several years.  Her influence is beginning to rub off on me.  It finally dawned on me to consider pairing Brussels Sprouts and leeks in a recipe.  After all, they are both available at the end of the year.  After a Google search, I found a recipe with her name on it.  We had it with sauteed center cut pork chops with carmelized onions.  Here is a link to the recipe:http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/brussels-sprouts-leeks-lime-ginger-butter.aspx

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over.  Reflecting on the gardening year I am grateful for another fun and rewarding year of gardening and feasting with family and friends.  It’s time to kick back, look at all the seed catalogs that have arrived over the last couple of weeks and start thinking about the new gardening year.  I wish you all the best.

Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

Garden Journal – late November

Garden Journal – late November

So, What’s Up with the Slowdown in Blog Post Production?

When I retired, I thought that I would have plenty of free time to blog, play the guitar, golf and garden.  Lately, there hasn’t been time for any of that.  Between caring for my ninety-three year old  mother and raking leaves, there hasn’t been much time for anything else.

About a month ago, Mom had a fall that resulted in a hospital stay.  While in the hospital, it was discovered that she had an infection.  She returned home weak, depressed and unable to live independently.  Being her only living child, it has fallen on me to make sure that she is well taken care of.  This is the beginning of a new chapter with lots of decisions to be made about where we go from here.  I am trying to embrace the moment, feeling that kindness is it’s own reward and that serving is a blessing.

As for the leaves, we have ’em and lots of them.  We have two giant and ancient sycamore trees in front of our house.  Many of the leaves are as big as dinner plates.  In addition, we have a copper beech tree that is just as large as the sycamores.  Add in the forty odd trees that line most of our property and we’ve got leaves – billions of leaves.  Armed with my i-pod, a lawn tractor pulling a cart with a homemade leaf hauling attachment, a leaf blower and a rake I kept after it until the vast majority of the leaves were removed from lawns and planting beds.  I move the leaves to giant bins where they will break down into leaf mulch which will be used in both the vegetable garden and perennial beds to enhance the texture of the soil.  I know what your thinking:  “Small benefit for a large investment of time”.

Lately, I have been feeling the same way.  It might be time to consider adding  ” fall clean-up by others” to the family budget.  However,   I do love being outside and I do feel a deep connection to our 1.5 acre home.  I also like doing physical things.  My motto is “you can do almost anything if you have the right mix on your i-pod.

ONE OF OUR MASSIVE LEAF CORRALS

ONE OF OUR MASSIVE LEAF CORRALS

 

Vegetable Garden Update

Leeks

We have been harvesting and cooking with leeks nearly the entire month of November.  I love leeks.  The aroma of a focaccia topped with sauteed leeks as it bakes in the oven is one of my favorite smells.  I recently made a leek, potato and bean soup that was delicious.  I will publish the recipe in my next blog post.     Also, I found a recipe for butternut squash and leek  casserole with prosciutto that was “The Hit” at a recent church potluck supper.  My goal was to find a dish  that featured vegetables from the garden that were in abundance in mid-November.  The leeks and butternut squash are a great match.  We’ve made this recipe twice and recommend adding twice as much cheese as recommended.  Here is a link to the recipe:http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/butternut-squash-casserole-with-leeks-prosciutto-and-thyme

LATE FALL LEEK HARVEST

LATE FALL LEEK HARVEST

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LEEKS TRIMMED AND CLEANED UP

Brussels Sprouts

This years crop is in very good shape.  Speaking with someone at the potluck supper, I was reminded that I haven’t always had success with Brussels Sprouts.  Why the good crop this year?  If I had to guess, I would say that it’s all about plant management.  This year, we have tried to be more proactive regarding removing leaves to promote good air circulation and removing competition for nutrients for the Sprouts as well as removing sprouts that have not fully formed or that show signs of black mold.  I also added plant supports to keep the individual plants upright.  This all seems to be working well.  So far, we have enjoyed Brussels Sprouts on several occasions.  Lately, we have been roasting them and then tossing them with crispy bacon and sliced apples.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS READY FOR HARVEST

BRUSSELS SPROUTS READY FOR HARVEST

 

Carrot Harvest

Last week, I harvested the carrots that I planted in the same space that had been the garlic patch.  These carrots were planted in early August.  The harvest was approximately eight pounds of carrots that should last us until the first of the year.  I made a beef stew with carrots recently that was well worth the effort.  I found the recipe on the Website “Once Upon a Chef’.  Some of my foodie friends tell me that this is really a beef bourguignone.  Here is a link to the recipe: http://www.onceuponachef.com/2011/02/beef-stew-with-carrots-potatoes.html#tabrecipe

 

Growing Crops in Low Tunnels

As I have been doing for the last four years, I have planted both Mache and “Red Kitten” spinach in the last several weeks so that they can over winter under plastic for harvest in early March.  It doesn’t take much effort but the reward is great, especially at a time of year when there isn’t much else going on in the garden.

In addition to the greens, I also planted carrots and beets in another tunnel for harvest before Christmas.  We will use the beets in our holiday borscht.  My wife, Catherine, is part Ukranian so borscht and pierogis have been part of our holidays for over forty years.  There is something quite satisfying about making the borscht with our own beets.

LATE CARROTS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

LATE CARROTS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

BEETS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

BEETS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

The Asparagus Bed

ASPARAGUS FERNS AT THE END OF NOVEMBER

ASPARAGUS FERNS AT THE END OF NOVEMBER

One of the last chores of the season in the vegetable garden is cutting back the ferns, raking and laying down lime and green sand.  This little bit of TLC is very important.  Asparagus likes a sweet soil as well as the potassium in the green sand.  Next Spring, I will water with fish emulsion in anticipation of another great crop.

THE ASPARAGUS PATCH CLEANED UP FOR WINTER

THE ASPARAGUS PATCH CLEANED UP FOR WINTER

This was another great year of vegetable gardening.  I hope that you had great success as well.  Now that Winter is coming, it is my intention to devote more of my posts to recipes, garden planning and crop rotation.  I wish you all a festive holiday season.

Greg Garnache

GARDEN JOURNAL – 4th Week of March

GARDEN JOURNAL – 4th Week of March

FIRST MACHE OF THE SEASON

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Overwintered Mache under plastic in the garden

A couple of days ago, I harvested the first Mache of the season.  Seeds were planted last October in one of my low plastic tunnels.  The plants grew slowly over the winter; much of it in the dark because the tunnel was completely covered in snow.  Two weeks ago, on a rare sunny and mild day, I removed the snow on the south side of the tunnel so that the sun could warm up the soil.  This week, conditions were right for harvesting.   I love the texture and taste of Mache and especially love the fact that I have something green to eat from my own garden at this time of year.

PROGRESS REPORT

Leaf crop seedlings almost ready for the garden

Leaf crop seedlings almost ready for the garden

LEEK SEEDLINGS  LOOKING  GOOD UNDER THE LIGHTS

LEEK SEEDLINGS LOOKING GOOD UNDER THE LIGHTS

 

WORDS OF WISDOM:
“Nature speaks freely to the individual, but seldom harangues a crowd”
Charles C. Abbott – Naturalist (from “Days out of Doors”)

 

All the best,

Greg