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 – 3rd Week of June

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of June

It was another wonderful week of gardening.  I can safely state that the vegetable garden is now fully planted.  Some holes in the pepper patch were filled with seedlings that got a late start thanks to some lack of attention on my part.   I neglected to check the viability dates on a couple of seed packets and was rewarded with total failure.  New seeds were ordered, planted and coaxed along, but I lost a couple of weeks in the process.

Let this be a lesson.  Every Winter, check the dates of issue for all of your seed packets to make sure that the seeds are sill viable.  There are plenty of viability charts available on the Internet and many gardening books contain them as well. I won’t make that mistake again.  I’m reminded of the expression, “There’s no fool like an old fool”.

Garlic Scape Harvest

The biggest news from “Greg’s Garden Party” this week was the harvesting of over 100 garlic scapes.  Because we grow a type of garlic known as “hard neck” garlic, we have the advantage of a double harvest from the garlic patch; scapes in June and garlic in July.  Luckily, scapes will keep well in the fridge for a month which will give us time to research new and interesting ways to use our scapes.  My friend, Vicki Dyer, is also a scape advocate and has promised me a recipe that I can share with you.

This week, we made scape compound butter, fresh pea soup with scapes, a white bean and scape dip  and a premavera with peas, broccoli and scapes.  Noodling around the Net, I found a recipe for savory Japanese pancakes that uses scapes.  Can’t wait to try that.  I also noticed that there are quite a few references for grilled scapes.  Gotta try that.

Garden Maintenance

Weeding, weeding, more weeding.  Plant supports for late plantings of peas, supports for peppers, feeding leaf crops, harvesting, harvesting, harvesting.  All in a gardening weeks’ work.  Our second and third plantings of peas are starting to come into production.   I put up side supports to keep the plants upright.  Nothing special, just using resources that I had hanging around.

PEAS

ROW OF PEAS WITH SUPPORT

Protecting the Glacier Tomatoes

Last year,  I harvested my first “Glacier” tomato on June 8.  It’s June 22 and I have yet to enjoy the first real tomato of the year.  In addition to the cat bird incident reported on this blog recently, we have been visited by a larger, four legged creature who also has an appetite for fresh tomatoes.  I discovered plastic poultry fencing at one of the “Big Box” hardware suppliers.  It is three feet tall, easy to cut and easy to apply.  I just made a surround to  enclose my three plants and attached it with large plastic clothes pins.   I have three tomatoes ripening as I type and I am going to enjoy the heck out of those “bad boys”.

A SIMPLE SOLUTPION

PLASTIC CHICKEN FENCING USED TO PROTECT TOMATOES

GLACIER TOMATO

NEARLY RIPE GLACIER TOMATO

Nurturing the Next Batch of Leaf Crops

This week I transplanted lettuce, cabbage and broccoli seedlings from 3/4″ soil blocks to 2″ soil blocks.  So that we can enjoy these crops over a long season, I start seeds every three weeks or so.  I also pay attention to the recommended season for the seeds I select.  For instance, “Bay Meadows” broccoli is recommended for Summer Planting whereas “Amadeus” broccoli is recommended for Spring and Fall.

Speaking of lettuce, I harvested the last of the “Black Seeded Simpson” lettuce which was started in early Spring.  We now have “Nancy” and  “Truchas” lettuce almost ready for “prime time”.  “Allstar Mix” mesclun direct seeded in May will be ready to harvest next week.

What I Harvested this week

Garlic Scapes

3 Full colanders of Peas

Broccoli

lettuce

Kale for juicing

Asparagus

Tomato Plant Maintenance

Every week, I spend some time pruning and clipping my tomato plants.  Otherwise, they will quickly get out of control.  We don’t allow that here at Greg’s  Garden Party.  Seriously,  a little time spent each week caring for your tomato plants is time well spent.

This past week I also sprayed my tomato plants with “Oxidate” fungicide to prevent early blight.  Next week I will spray with Copper fungicide and continue this alternating strategy right through the season into late September.

Welcome to the new subscribers who have signed up recently.  Greg’s Garden Party now has 61 subscribers and growing.  I would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions.  That’s what I’m here for.

All the best,

Greg  Garnache

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of June

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of June

Pruning Tomatoes

By far, the most important task this past week was pruning the tomato plants for the first time.  With this pruning  I can dictate the growth habit that the plant will take for the entire season.   The first pruning involves eliminating any branches that are close to the ground or that project forward or backward.   My goal is to create a more two dimensional growth habit. I will train the plants to the main leader and one sucker on each side of the plant that will grow into major branches.  This creates balance.  After this initial pruning, I will prune out all future suckers that develop at the point where the branches meet the main leader.

PRUNING TOMATOES

TOMATO PLANT BEFORE FIRST PRUNING

TOMATO PRUNING

TOMATO PLANT AFTER FIRST PRUNING. NOTE THE SUCKERS ON EITHER SIDE.

Spraying Tomato Plants to Prevent Early Blight

Once all the tomato plants were pruned, I sprayed them with Copper fungicide.  I treated the entire plant and the ground surrounding the plant.  I will alternate Copper fungicide one week with “Oxidate”  fungicide the  following week throughout the growing season.  I learned this technique from speaking with the attendant in the Johnny’s Selected Seeds demonstration greenhouse at the “Common Ground Fair” in Unity, Maine,  If it’s good enough for Johnny’s it’s good enough for Greg’s Garden Party.

Harvest Time at Greg’s Garden Party

This past week was truly cause for celebration.  We enjoyed our first pea  harvest of the season.  Nothing beats fresh peas from the garden.  I shell the peas, boil them for three minutes, drain them, add butter, salt and pepper and enjoy one of vegetable gardening’s greatest pleasures.

GARDEN FRESH PEAS

THE SEASON’S FIRST PEA HARVEST

 

In addition to the peas we harvested garlic scapes , Purple Peacock broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, frisee, bulb fennel and rhubarb.  To celebrate, we hosted a dinner party featuring all of these ingredients.  We were blessed with a pleasant late Spring evening which allowed us to dine on the patio.  Fresh food from the garden, great company, a  lovely evening; what could be more perfect?  Here is the menu:

Appetizer:  Sliced baggette spread with Kerry Gold butter  and topped with French Breakfast radishes

FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES

FRENCH BREAD WITH BUTTER AND FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES

Truffle salt made these appetizers rock.

Salad:  Frisee and bulb fennel with olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon dressing topped with radish slivers, toasted chopped almonds and gold raisins.

A GREAT SPRING SALAD

FRISEE AND FENNEL SALAD WITH RADISHES, TOASTED ALMONDS AND GOLDEN RAISINS

We added shaved Parmesan cheese at the table.

Main Course:  Pasta with broccoli, peas, garlic scapes, asparagus, shaved Parmesan  cheese and Panchetta

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES

Dessert:  Rhubarb Upside Down Cake.

RHUBARB UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

RHUBARB UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

 

 

PLANTING PEAS

PLANTING PEAS

Spring is actually here.  I celebrated that fact by planting the season’s first peas.  Peas are one of the best crops to eat fresh
from the garden.  If you are a home vegetable gardener and you
haven’t experienced the taste and sweetness of garden fresh peas
do yourself a favor and give them a try.  Growing peas is relatively
simple.  Plant as early as you can in the Spring.  I make a trench
about 3 inches deep and about the width of a hoe.  I first apply
a layer of bone meal to feed the peas.  Then I plant the peas.  I
use an entire packet (375 seeds in a 15 foot long row.  I don’t
get anal about the placement of the peas.  I just try to space them
about 1″ apart.  Next, I water the trench enough to wet all of the
peas.  The final step before covering the seeds is to sprinkle a
granular inoculant over the seeds.  This provides active live
bacteria which improves yield.  I cover the soil, give the trench
another drenching of water and wait patiently for the seedlings to
emerge.

As you can see from the picture, I have driven some metal fence posts into the ground.  When the seedlings
start to grow I will hang “pea trellis” from the fence posts to support the pea vines.  The variety that I planted
is called CASELOAD and was purchased from Johnny’s Selected seeds.  The peas were planted on March
18.  In the twenty years that I have been growing vegetables this is the earliest that I’ve ever started peas.
I will plant a second crop in about two weeks.  Put some seeds in the ground my friends.
All the best,
Greg