Saturday, March 4, 2017

Early, Early Asparagus

      I have heard that the mostly mild or even outrageously warm weather this winter has our area about a month ahead of normal seasons.  And yet, it was still a huge surprise to see asparagus spears breaking ground in late February!  By early March:

March 3, 2017

      The purplish or pinkish spears are just barely visible in this planting.  In this next shot of a different hill the spears are more easily seen.

March 3, 2017

    With a few more days of nice weather, I might have enjoyed the first taste of asparagus in early March. But alas, winter has moved back in.  While the asparagus roots are perennial and can survive weather to zero or lower, the shoots above ground are quite tender, and will be killed back in freezing temperatures. The forecast for this morning was supposed to be 22 degrees, so yesterday I went to the park to cover the baby asparagus with shredded leaves. Tomorrow morning lows are supposed to be around 16 degrees. Bad, bad weather for brand new spears.

      Ah, hopefully that will be better.  In a couple of days I will gently peel away the leaves and look for some of those scrumptious first spears.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Perfect for Pansies

      A large chunk of the old Beech tree at the entrance to the Bellevue Park community gardens broke off, showing the necessity to take down the whole tree. Turns out it was rotten in the center to a height of about ten feet.  The inside was filled with beautiful black dirt, probably the result of years of squirrel goop and nesting leaves.  To some enterprising gardener, it presented the perfect opportunity for a stealth raid to plant some pansies before the stump planter was cut down.  Hopefully the park people will leave the new gardening statement standing.

February 24, 2017
Brightens things up a bit after a cloudy winter

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Atta boy, Tatsoi

      I love the look of the low growing Chinese green known as Tatsoi.  It is very cold resistant and is great for cold frame growing as it does not get much taller than 6 inches to a foot.  If you let it throw flower spikes, it may even self seed for you.

       This is a volunteer.  So what you say.  This was not a transplanted volunteer, but rather popped up in the dirt that I used from my compost pile.  The pepper planted in this pot died, but this volunteer tatsoi has thrived.  And for that effort, it has won a place in the salad to be made for the Thanksgiving feast.
       I bought this neat growing pot this spring.  Bought three different sizes, three gallon, five gallon and ten gallon.  The handles make them pretty easy to move around.  They are made from fabric and recycled plastic bottles.  The manufacturer claims they have a life span of five to six years.  I bought mine from this link:

       I bought the brown bags which are said to last the longest time.  Have been very happy with them. They would also make a great tote in the garden for harvesting veggies or even for collecting weeds and trimmings. These are known as the "Root Pouch".


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Last of the Limas

      The Dr. Martin lima beans have had a very productive run, but the colder weather and shorter day length has pretty much done them in.  Here is a picture of the last picking on October 30th, then shelled on November second.

      We have a lot of the beans frozen, as they just kept coming and coming.

      Even the large beans are tasty.  Dinner was pork chops, lima beans, and butternut squash from the garden.  Scrumptious.

     A nice way to end the lima season.  Does anyone have a recipe for baked beans using fresh or dried lima beans?  I would love to give it a try.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Still picking, October 3rd, 2016
      We are about one week away from the normal first frost date.  Luckily the weather and the gardens are not aware of that.  So please do not inform the tomatoes that they should not still be this productive and delicious.  I will go to the kitchen shortly to taste test some of the Purple Cherokees pictured.
      Garden on!  Till a hopefully delayed first frost date.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dr. Martin Lima Beans

      A few years ago, some of the gardeners at the park introduced me to Dr. Martins Lima Beans.  The vines grow huge, and although the beans are very large, they are delicious.  The only problem I had was getting the dried beans to sprout.  A lot of the literature suggests to soak the dried beans overnight.  All that did was to result in planting mushy beans in flats that resulted in a rotting mess. With some years of experimentation, I have come upon a simple method.

Dr. Martin starts, April 25, 2016
      Five days ago I filled these four cell packs with soil, and soaked the trays in water.  Poured off the excess water and planted one dried bean per cell.  Actually one FROZEN dried bean per cell, as these beans are from my dried crop from November 2015 that has been stored in the freezer.  Who would think that frozen beans would germinate?  Not only do they germinate, I think I will get all 16 seeds to sprout. How about them beans?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Paper Towel Germination Update

Upper Rack
      Last month on January 4th, I started germinating some seeds using the moist paper towel method. At the time I believed that the forecast for a big El Nino winter suggested that we would have a mild winter here in the Mid Atlantic area.  I should be able to get starts out early in the cold frames, right?  Not so fast.  I have been cold, and we are looking for a low of 3 degrees overnight on Saturday!!!  Not exactly early gardening weather.  Now back to the moist towel method.

      On January 4th, I started:                                                            Results
Asian Pak Choi                  Livingston for 2013                                  Good
Mizuna Mustard                 GWD seed for 2012                                Good
Dwarf Chinese Cabbage    GWD seed for 2012                                 Good
Bloomsdale Spinach           Bulk seed from Alexanders, Year ?           Zip
Forellenschluss lettuce        Fedco for 2012                                         Zip
Winter Density Lettuce       Fedco for 2012                                         Zip
Lettuce Red Sails               GWD for 2011                                          Zip
Romaine Lettuce                Livingston for 2008                                    Zip

      On January 5th, I started:
Radish                               Burpee's French Breakfast for 2015           90 % +
Beedy's Camden Kale       Fedco for 2010                                          Good
Radish, Purple Plum           Lake Valley for 2015                                 90 % +
Swiss Chard                      Livingston Bright Lights for 2015                Only fair
Romaine Lettuce                Fedco Winter Wonderland for 2012          Good
Arugula                              GWD but unlabeled                                   Zip
Hardy Mild Mustard           GWD for 2012                                            Good
Curly Kale                          GWD for 2011                                            90 % +

      On January 6th, I started:
Sylvetta Arugula                  Fedco for 2010                                         Zip
Roquette Arugula                Livingston for 2009                                   Fair - Okay
Chinese Mustard                 GWD Thick Stem for 2014                       Good
Purple Kohlrabi                   Lake Valley for 2015                                Very good
Savoy Cabbage                   Fedco var Deadon for 2012                      Okay
Swiss Chard                        Burpee's Rhubard Chard for 2014             Good
Lacinto Kale                        Fedco for 2012 Nero di Tuscana               Good
Radish, Watermelon             Livingston for 2015                                    Good  

      What did I learn from all of this?  Early January is too early to be starting fast growing crops.  Had it been a very mild winter, the starting time could still have been delayed for probably two weeks.  The seeds for year 2012 seem to be the tipping point for germination.  Prior to that there were a lot of zero germinations. For 2013 and later, only the Livingston Bright Lights was spotty.  So a little later this spring I should use up all of my 2012 seeds, and only carry forward 2013 or later.  And maybe work hard to use up the 2013 seed as well.  The results also suggest that my own GWD saved seed have done quite well.
       With the exceedingly cold forecast for overnight Saturday, I am going to have to bring the starter trays back inside for some period of time.  Bummer

Middle Rack
Lowest Rack