First Harvest

RadishesRadishes. First planted. First harvested. These are Early Scarlet Globe from Seed Saver’s Exchange. These were planted the end of April along with my carrots, peas, lettuce and spinach. I plant radishes in the same space as my carrots which helps break up the soil for the carrot roots to get down deeper.

These are just delicious. If you haven’t tasted homegrown radishes, you need to. The initial bite is crisp and sweet and ends with a spicy peppery finish. A perfect addition to any salad or eat right out of the garden.  I will let some radishes go to seed. Radish seed pods are just as delicious and can be eaten raw or thrown into a stir fry.

It’s wonderful growing all your salad ingredients. Unfortunately, not everything is ready at the same time! But picking a variety of lettuce, spinach and other greens still makes for a delightful meal or side dish.

I like to grow leaf lettuce as opposed to head lettuce. It allows for continual harvesting and you can pick when very young for micro greens or when mature. An easy way to wash these delicate leaves is to fill the sink with water and swish them around.

Washing LettuceThen add them to your salad spinner to spin off the extra water. To further dry them, lay out on paper towels and toss. Do not press in between the paper towels as you can bruise the leaves. For the final step the keep your greens dry line your baggie with paper towels and add your green in between them as show here:

storing lettuceThis will keep your greens dry and crisp and will last a surprisingly long time in the fridge, up to 10 days or longer.

I am also currently harvesting spinach, Swiss chard, endive and thinning my beets and using the beet leaves, too.

Mmmmmm, salad.

 

Compost – Black Gold

Part 1

A year ago for Mother’s Day, my thoughtful husband bought me a beautiful white ceramic canister for the countertop. This was the beginning of us composting. All vegetable and fruit scraps go into that container as well as coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells. We do not add any cooked left overs, meat nor bread items.

 

Countertop Ceramic Composter

Countertop Ceramic Composter

The best part about this gift is that he bought it at a resale store! I think it goes great with our arts & crafts home. It is amazing what you can find when you look beyond the first layer at a resale or antique store. (Can’t find one locally? Check out all the options of Amazon!)

There is some wonderful information on line on how to compost. It’s really not that difficult and if you have patience, you don’t have to put too much work into it. If you want finished compost faster, than I suggest getting an enclosed type of composter that is on a stand you can rotate.

We built our own compost container with leftover wood and pallets I got from the grocery store. When I asked at the customer service counter if they had any pallets to give away, they told me they’d never had a request for pallets. I thought, well, I bet people just take them from the back of the store, but I never feel comfortable doing that. Pallets are used to hold a myriad of products including food items, chemicals and anything else you buy. Pallets are made in just as many different ways and in many countries.

If you like the idea of using pallets, there are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Use pallets made in the USA or Canada only (US or CA on the stamp)
  • Use pallets that are heat-treated only (HT on the stamp)
  • Don’t use pallets that are painted or clearly have something spilled on them
  • Consider what type of store you are getting them from (maybe not from an auto supply store for example)
  • All pallets will have a “stamp” burned onto them with the information you need to verify the pallet is safe to use.

Don’t ever use a pallet that has MB instead of HT on the stamp. MB stands for Methyl Bromide, a broad spectrum pesticide. Methyl bromide has the potential to ‘gas off’ as elemental bromine, after which it acts as a serious ozone depleter. Plus, you wouldn’t want such a chemical anywhere near a product you are creating to put on all your wonderful edible plants!

Building our compost container took no time at all and filling it was just as fast.

pallet compost bin

pallet compost bin

In addition to kitchen scraps (green material) you also need to add brown material. This is where your leaves and twigs come in handy, as well as cardboard, paper bags, even straw.

After almost a year, we are close to getting actual compost. What does compost look like? It looks like the richest, deepest most earthy smelling dirt you’ve ever seen. This year we are going to add a divider in the middle of our bin to create two sections. The left side will be fresh material, the right side will be broken down compost that is almost ready for the garden, plants and even houseplants.

My next post I will go into more detail about actual composting, do’s and don’t’s, helpful tips and how to use your newly created black gold soil.

In the meantime, go visit your local grocery store and ask if they have any pallets available. If they do, grab some; but be sure to check out the stamp first!

Rain,

I don’t mind. Shine, the weather’s fine.

As a gardener, I love when it rains. It means I don’t have to do any of the watering for a while. I need to set up a drip system, but for now I hand water everything. Many times that means I’m out in my garden 9:00 at night after getting everyone to bed. Luckily in the middle of summer it’s still light out. But right now it means watering in the dark.

Last year we bought a rain barrel. I researched on-line about making our own, but I really wanted to make sure that our container was food grade plastic. If you’re using a rain barrel just for flowers or your lawn, any plastic container could work, but I’d still be cautious as plastic that heats up leaches out many bad chemicals. Since it would still take time to find a food grade container, we decided to buy from a local business. And they are actually just up the street from us. Check out Rain Barrels Iowa for more information about collecting and using rain water. Here is a diagram from their website explaining an average household’s water usage and how a rain barrel can really help.

Picture

Steve made a great stand for the rain barrel, which is a used jalapeno barrel. We added a diverter to the downspout, so we can easily switch when rain goes into the barrel or straight out of downspout. The rain barrel also has an overflow outlet for when it fills. And it seems that it doesn’t take much for it to fill!

What can you use the water for in your rain barrel? Every kind of non-potable use. Water your veggie or flower garden. Water your houseplants, wash your windows or your car. You can even use it for laundry. I use it for my woodland garden (lots of ferns and hostas), as well as over in the fairy garden where a hose doesn’t reach. I also fill a container to sprinkle over my compost pile.

So while some people grumble about rain, I relish in it. I know my gardens are getting a good soaking and the rain barrel is filling up. Plus, after living in Portland, OR for 16 years I find the rain (and humidity) is really good for my skin and hair.

Rain, I don’t mind.

Garden reminiscing

An American garden

An American garden

As I wait for all the little sprouts to shoot through the dirt, I find myself browsing through pictures of past year’s gardens. I love hanging out in my veggie garden. Many times, I find a place to sit and just watch what goes on around me. Bees and birds flitting around, the smells of wonderful things growing and finding all the ripe items to add to my basket.

Even though we live on a busy intersection (cars, people, bikes etc), this little corner garden is an oasis and I enjoy coming to it for some peace.

As you can see, my garden has a good variety of food and flowers. It’s important to plant a variety of bee and other bug-friendly flowers to help get blooms pollinated and to keep away the bad bugs.

Two years ago, I found this guy in my garden!

a very helpful praying mantis

A very helpful praying mantis

I didn’t see him last year, but I didn’t have a bad bug problem like I did that year. He was getting all the squash beetles.

Last year, we had a bumper crop of cucumbers. We made dill spears, slices and relish. The relish was the best.

Russian pickler

Russian pickler

I don’t have a very large space so I tend to plant things closer together than what is recommended. The only trouble I have with that is finding everything. But it also means that many plants are purposefully planted close to each other. If you’re new to gardening, this is called companion planting. There are some plants that have benefits if planted next to each other. You may know to plant your basil with your tomatoes. But did you know that you can also plant your cabbage with your tomatoes? The smell of the tomatoes (oh yes they are stinky!) actually masks the smell of the cabbage and the bugs can’t find them so well!

Of course in addition to companion planting, there are also plants you don’t want growing near each other. I’ll go into more detail in another post because there is so much to share!

Bees love the garden

Bees love the garden

Here is the perfect reason to plant flowers in your veggie garden. This bumble bee is so very happy and doing wonders for all the other plants in addition to the sunflowers.

Echinacea

Echinacea

And why not add a pop of color that beneficial insects love to hang out on? These flowers always put a smile on my face. They are just so cheery.

Spring has finally arrived

What  a long winter we all had. Everyone has been talking about it and we were all so giddy on the first nice day we could get. But for so long those nice days were just that….one day. Then back to the cold. March was such a teaser and we were so anxious to get out. Then came April, I knew good weather was just around the corner.

I’m not one to do too much planning over the winter. I think it just makes me too anxious and impatient. So out came my seed catalogs and my paper to draw out the garden. My two favorite places to order is Territorial Seed Company in London Springs, Oregon and Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA. Steve and I discussed what worked last year, what we liked and new things we’d like to try. So I drew out my plans and placed my order.

Last weekend I got all the tools out and started digging, prepping and readying my beds. I feel fortunate that we have good soil. There isn’t much I have to do for amendments. This year I just added some Oma-Gro. I’d really like to try a green cover crop to till in. That would make the garden look good over the winter, too.

This weekend was Easter and absolutely beautiful weather. The Farmer’s Almanac says to plant potatoes on or right after Good Friday. So the potatoes got planted! Since I don’t have a lot of space for good crop rotation, I decided to try potatoes in pots. I’m using an older planter and an actual potato planter bag. I planted German Butterball, a buttery-fleshed spud and Sangre, a red-skinned, white-fleshed tater.

I erected my trellis using bamboo sticks and chicken wire for the peas, Serge and Green Arrow. It will be fun to sit around the table with the family shelling them. Before we know it, we’ll have peas! I also planted carrots, radishes, a variety of lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, endive and beets.

It was a long day and I was exhausted. But it’s so rewarding seeing the sprouts shoot up and watching everything grow! More planting won’t happen until the soil warms up so here’s to hoping for many days of warm weather. I’ll get the rest of the seeds in once it’s warm enough and my tomato and pepper starts will be shipped in mid-May.ImageImage