A Lovely Winter Afternoon

A Lovely Winter Afternoon

Having just survived several  days of very cold weather, I could not resist the temptation of a sunny day in the mid 40’s.  Grabbing the camera and some harvesting tools I headed for the chicken coop and then the garden.

My three chickens named “Buffy” (they all look alike) hadn’t been out of the pen since the snow storm last week and neither had I; mentally, I mean. Got out to the pen, greeted the Buffys and opened the pen door to let them out.  Those chickensh*%s wouldn’t leave the pen because of the 2″  crust of snow on the ground.  I had to tempt them with a treat before they would venture out.  They bit for the mealy worm feast cast before them.  They came, they pecked, they returned to the pen. ” Thanks for the company, girls.  Don’t let the pen door hit you in the butt on the way in”.

THREE CHICKENS ON SNOW IN LATE AFTERNOON

THE “GIRLS” ENJOYING A TREAT IN JANUARY

Did I mention what a beautiful day it was?  Late afternoon sun, which this time of year can be quite pleasing, moderate temperatures, no wind; a perfect January Day.

A Visit to the Carrot and Beet Patch

Remember the harvesting tools?  My ultimate destination was the low tunnel covering the carrots and beets.  It took about  twenty minutes to free the bottom edge of the plastic sheeting that covers the tunnel  so that I could peel it back to gain access to the planting bed.  I was pleased with what I saw when I moved the plastic out of the way.  Remarkably, the greens for both the carrots and beets looked relatively healthy.  I looked for the bushiest carrot heads and pulled them out of the ground.  The end result was thirty two carrots, with many more left to harvest in March.

CARROTS ON SNOW

THE JANUARY CARROT HARVEST

Sadly, the beet roots haven’t yet grown  to harvest size.  The greens, however, were very healthy.  I had planted three rows that were four feet long.  The small patch produced a large bowl full of beautiful greens.   I live for these moments; outdoors on a pleasant day in January, enjoying the late afternoon sun and shadows.  Add some harvesting and some quality time with the “Girls” and you have a recipe for shaking those “Midwinter Blues”.

BEET GREENS IN WINTER

BEET GREENS HARVESTED IN JANUARY

While the canopy was open, I took the opportunity to water the entire plant bed.   I closed the tunnel and won’t be back until late February.  The short days are signally dormancy for most of the stuff in both low tunnels.

CARROT PATCH IN JANUARY

THE CARROT PATCH UNDER PLASTIC

THE LOW TUNNEL WITH THE SNOW CHIPPED AWAY AND THE GREENHOUSE PLASTIC PEALED BACK

THE LOW TUNNEL WITH THE SNOW CHIPPED AWAY AND THE GREENHOUSE PLASTIC PEALED BACK

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THE BEET PATCH, GREENS PICKED, BED WEEDED

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A LOVELY BATCH OF BEET GREENS

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THE CARROTS, PRUNED, WASHED AND DRYING ON A TOWEL

When my wife got home from work, she noticed the beet greens and thought that they would be a nice addition to dinner.  I was assigned the job of wilting the greens while she stir fried the scallops she had picked up on the way home.  We included some leftover celeriac puree and had a delicious supper.  I will post the recipe very soon.

All the best,
Greg Garnache

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 – 3rd Week of April

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of April

What a busy week. I have been asking myself all week, “How did I ever do all this and hold down a full time job?”. Yard work,  burning brush, garden clean up, transplanting indoors, starting seeds out in the garden, harvesting mache and spinach, caring for my elderly mother, baby sitting my grand daughter, cooking for my busy wife. Never a dull moment. I’m not complaining. It’s all good. The pace will eventually slow down after Memorial Day Weekend.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Transplanting Tomatoes and Peppers

The tomatoes and peppers are showing their first real leaves and that means that they need to be transplanted to 4 packs. I make sure that each 4 pack is properly labeled, that soil is gently compacted around the seedling and that the soil level is almost level with the top of the 4 pack. I water from the bottom by placing the 4 pack in a tray with fertilized water. I then top off each cell in the 4 pack with vermiculite to reduce the  possibility of the seedlings developing “damping off disease”.  I will place
a fan beside the plant stand to create some air flow to further reduce the
chances of developing “damping off disease”.

SEEDLINGS IN WATERBATH

SEEDLINGS IN WATERBATH

SEEDLINGS  TOPPED OFF WITH LAYER OF VERMICULITE

SEEDLINGS TOPPED OFF WITH LAYER OF VERMICULITE

 

Starting Root Crop Seeds in the Garden

This has also been a big week for seed starting in the garden, especially
for root crops like radishes, beets, scallions and carrots. I planted two four foot long rows of radishes, one each of “French Breakfast” and “Crunchy Royale”. I then covered the two rows with a mini tunnel I built with strapping, chicken wire and fabric row cover to protect against root maggots. Nature has a way of making life difficult. One must be vigilant and inventive. For more info and some photos, please check out my blog post “How to Beat Root Maggots on Radishes and Beets” from my October 2014 archive. I planted my radish seeds at 2″ intervals with the rows
spaced 8″ apart.

Three rows of beets were planted with the same spacing as the radishes. I planted two varieties, “Red Ace” and “Touchstone Gold”. Watering every day until seedlings emerge is very important.

Planting the Carrot Box

In order to grow straight and attractive carrots it is helpful to have
deeply cultivated soil that has a high content of organic matter with some sand. Toward that end, I use a couple of 4″ high frames that I made out of old pallets. I set them in the garden, fill them with compost, sand and some lime; and then use my little one horse tiller to mix all of the ingredients together. After smoothing out the soil with a rake, I plant seeds 1″ apart in rows 8″ apart.

Over the years, I have been trying to garden smarter. One change that I have made for the better is using pelleted carrot seeds. They are much easier to handle, easier to see in the furrow and thus, completely repay their higher cost over conventional seed. Yeah, I’m done with conventional carrot seeds.

HERE'S THE CARROT BOX SHOWING  MY PLANTING BOARD FOR MAKING THE SHALLOW FURROW, MY TRUSTY SHEET ROCK SQUARE FOR HANDY SPACING AND MY MASON'S TROWEL FOR COVERING THE ROWS,  AND SMOOTHING THINGS OUT.

HERE’S THE CARROT BOX SHOWING MY PLANTING BOARD FOR MAKING THE SHALLOW FURROW, MY TRUSTY SHEET ROCK SQUARE FOR HANDY SPACING AND MY MASON’S TROWEL FOR COVERING THE ROWS, AND SMOOTHING THINGS OUT.

In addition to all of the above, I started more lettuce seeds indoors in 3/4″ soil blocks. I try to start new greens every three weeks into mid-Fall. Gotta have a steady supply of greens. I also added another planting of peas to the garden, planted some shallots, moved some lettuce, kale and broccoli seedlings out to the garden, and cleaned up a couple of other beds. All in all, a very satisfying week in the garden.

All the best,
Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

QUESTION: Does anyone have an easy technique for prepping shallot cloves? I’m not quite getting it. Thanks in advance.