Monday, May 13, 2013

Spring veggies and herbs are going to seed.....

Kale flowering

Monday, May 13, 2013

As the days get warmer, the cold season crops are starting to follow nature’s call and go to seed, or “bolt” as it is called.  You can either harvest or let them flower and seed to save for fall or spring.

Those that are bolting in our garden-spinach, French sorrel, Salad Burnet, kale, chard, and cilantro.  When they send up their stalk, they are making their seeds.  Many will resprout if left.  

This is also an excellent time to cut the stalk and place in a paper bag to dry.  Then, you will have your own seeds for fall and next spring to replant for free.  After the seeds are completely dry, put them in labelled freezer baggies and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.  

I have seeds that are 8 years old and still sprout.  If you want to test if they will germinate, you can do what my Granny used to do.  She would put seeds between sheets of paper towels and keep damp in a warm spot.  If they sprouted, she knew they were good to use in the garden!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another way to look at crop rotation groups

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I saw this in Urban Farm magazine by Mary Lou Shaw and thought it was another easy way of looking at crop rotation.

Divide your garden, or pots, into these 4 groups:
Group 1-Leaf Plants-the ones you eat the leaves of like lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.  These need high amounts of nitrogen.
Group 2-Cleaners and Builders.  The cleaners are corn and potatoes.  The builders are beans and peas because of the nitrogen they add to the soil.
Group 3-Root plants like garlic, onions, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes.  These need high amounts of potassium.
Group 4-Fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, squash, and cucumbers.  These need high amounts of phosphorous for fruiting.

Mark down on a piece of paper where you planted each group.  Next year, just rotate them around with Group 4 going into Group 1’s spot, Group 1 going into Group 2’s spot, etc.  Just keep moving them in that order each year and write it down each year so you don’t forget!

I liked this approach because you can add the extra nutrient that the group of plants need.

Don’t worry if you can’t keep them all exactly in these 4 groups.  Just make sure you don’t have the same type of plant going into the same spot or pot every year.  Interplant with companion plants to keep each strong if you don’t have the space to do full blown crop rotation.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Make your own fruit or herb flavored sodas

Saturday, May 11, 2013

You can make your own sodas at home!  

For a fruit flavored soda, use 1 cup of fruit, 1 cup of sugar (more or less depending on how sweet the fruit is that you are using), 1 cup apple cider vinegar.  Heat the sliced fruit, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vinegar over high heat until it boils.  Reduce and simmer until fruit is soft and sugar dissolved.  Add more sugar if too tart.  When cool, mash the fruit and strain liquid into a jar.  Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.  For a soda, add 3 tablespoons of syrup into 8 ounces of carbonated cold water.

If you want to go the sugar-free route, substitute 1/2 teaspoon powdered stevia extract for the sugar.

For a homemade ginger ale, slice 1/4 cup of ginger root and 1/2 lemon or lime, 4 cups of water, simmer in pan for 20 minutes, strain into a glass jar, add 1/2 teaspoon of powdered stevia extract.  Add equal amounts of ginger liquid and sparkling water.

The only watch out with stevia is more can make it bitter, so keep close to the recommended amount.

You can do the same thing with mint, basil, rosemary, lemon verbena, cilantro, or dill.  These syrups can be used in sodas or in adult beverages like the mint julep, margaritas, daiquiris, martinis, gin/vodka gimlets, gin and tonics, sangrias.  Let your imagination run herb wild!

There are relatively inexpensive carbonators available nowadays as well.  If you drink a lot of soda, this could be a very cost effective approach.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Time to plant summer veggies!

Tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers planted in the background
Friday, May 10, 2013

May Day is when the old timers say it is the best time to plant your summer garden.  Prior to May 1, there is still a good chance of poor weather, chilly temps, and frost in our Zone 6 garden.  This can be catastrophic for tomatoes, eggplants, basil and other heat lovers.

Today, we have the added advantage of the 10 day forecast!  I checked out ours and it showed warm temperatures all 10 days.

So, what did we plant this year?  

Of course, we planted the number one veggie in the USA-tomatoes.  This year, we planted all bush types because we wanted to see what we could grow without cages.  We are trying Bush Early Girl (only 54 days till ripe tomatoes), Better Boy Bush, Patio, Husky Red, and Better Bush.  Typically, you can expect to have your first ripe tomatoes around the 4th of July.

We also planted several peppers-Sweet Red Banana, JalapeƱo, Anaheim, Cayene, Pimento Elite, and a variety pack of sweet bell peppers.  It will be fun to see what colors they turn out to be!

We have two eggplants-White Italian and the perennial favorite Black Beauty.  We went with Yellow Crookneck squash and Patio Snacker cucumber, both of which can be grown in a pot.

The herbs we planted were ARP rosemary, tarragon, and common sage.

It was also time for another round of spinach and lettuce.  The first planting of spinach is bolting.  We planted Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach which last about two weeks longer in the heat than other types of spinach.  For lettuce, we went with Jericho Romaine which is supposed to go for 3 months before bolting as well as Red Romaine.

We had already fertilized and added mushroom compost a month ago.  When we planted the summer veggies, I added biochar at the bottom of each hole, a handful of worm castings, and powdered the roots of each plant with mycorrhizal microbes.  Mycorrhizal fixes nitrogen to the roots of the plant, helping it to grow sturdier, bigger and faster.

Biochar is being rediscovered.  It was used for centuries by Amazon farmers.  Basically, it is wood charcoal.  It provides similar benefits as humus except it lasts forever and it is a great way to store carbon, to boot.  It is new in the US, but many are reporting significant improvement in growth and vegetable size.

Before you send your new transplants into the garden, insure they have been sufficiently "hardened off."  If you started your own seeds indoors, take your plants out daily over a week or so into a partially shady spot, letting them get used to the strong sun.

If you purchased your transplants and they were already outdoors, they are ready to be plopped into the ground and grow!

Monday, May 6, 2013

What are we eating from the early May garden?

Earthbox with lettuce, spinach and other greens

Monday, May 6, 2013

Early May is a wonderful time in the garden.  Greens are sweet and juicy.  Herbs are growing robustly.  By this time of year, we no longer need to purchase produce from the grocery store and can get fresh herbs to add to ordinary dishes that make them taste wonderful.

The greens we are eating-French sorrel, chard, spinach, dandelion greens, salad burnet, blood veined sorrel, sweet clover, cabbage leaves, green onions.

Herbs to add to dishes and salads-garlic chives, chives, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, savory, horseradish, wild leeks. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Organic weed strategies

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The least toxic way to deal with weeds is to get them before they flower and go to seed.  Go on a weed hunt weekly to see what invaders have entered your yard and garden.  Many weeds will resprout if you take off their tops; you have to pull out the roots to make sure they do not come back.

Weed seeds need light to germinate.  If you like to till your garden, till it, let it lay for a few days, come back and hoe off the little weed sprouts, then plant.

I like to plant all my veggies in mulch.  You can use bark mulch or straw mulch.  You can also use pine mulch, but I would use this only around acid loving plants.  Do not use hay for mulch as hay has tons of seeds in it!

Another non-toxic strategy is flame weeding.  You can buy a flame weeder that you use to burn off the weeds.

A final non-toxic strategy is to cover the area with plastic and let it lay for a season.  The heat will kill the weed seeds.

There are also organic weed killers (herbicides) available.  You can go to the OMRI site to see what weed killers are considered organic:

Some that are out there are from Safer, Matran, GreenMatch EX, Weed Zap, BioLink Herbicide, Whitney Farms weed killer, Avenger Organic Weed and Grass Killer.  There are many others as well.