Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Strange New Ivy

      Our family just got back yesterday from a short trip to Florida.  Cindy and me, our two daughters and their husbands, and five grand kids.  Four days of Disney parks, constant walking, many smiles, and many melt downs.  Lots of pictures, some garden oriented.  This is a short start, as I want to get over to my park garden this morning.
      Common Ivy or English Ivy (Hedera helix) is quite invasive, and once you start it, you will probably be battling it forever.  Even if you don't start it, it may volunteer and then grow into a nuisance.  But during our visit to Animal Kingdom, I saw a species new to me, Hedera camowomanensis, a quite lovely plant.  Yet it too would wander around your yard were you lucky enough to acquire such a fine specimen.

Camo Woman at Animal Kingdom,  1/28/2012

Camo Womanensis on the move
Too bad, time to move on

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Getting the Porch Ready

      With so many seeds sprouting due to the moist paper towel germination success, I need to find more room for plant flats to get adequate light.  Yesterday I was forced to clean up and rearrange the porch to find more spots to put trays.

1/24/2012 before new plan
1/24/2012 before new plan
Shelf rotated to face due south
Table added to take some flats
Full view of western exposure, 1/24/2012
      With this new arrangement, I can fit in about 5 flats.  So in just a little while, I will be full and looking for more space.  Just what gardening is all about.
      The porch has single pane glass, and would maintain a temperature of about 10 degrees warmer than outside temps.  We have an electric heater set to come on at 42 degrees to protect the non hardy plants on the porch. I drop the shades on cold nights for a little more protection. I believe the cooler temperatures on the porch are beneficial to many of the seedlings, as it prevents them from getting "leggy" by growing too quickly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Snow is Gone

      The weathermen were correct about the snow melting yesterday, but oh what an ugly rainy gray day.  Today is still gray, but there is a brighter spot in the sky that must be the sun trying to break through.  Not having been to the park garden for a couple of days, I had to go over to check on things.

Ah, the snow is gone,  1/24/2012
The frame in the header above, updated 1/24/2012
I just got the craving for a salad for dinner

      It was time to pick one of these Winter Marvel Bibb lettuce plants that I never harvest, waiting for them to be perfect.  But the heads at home passed that perfect stage without alerting me, so I will not make that mistake again.  The beauty in the middle joined me for the ride home, along with some of the pretty leaf lettuce and a big handful of the arugula.  I stopped at the produce market, gasp, to buy a small container of heirloom cherry tomatoes and a bag of radishes.  Is it dinner time yet?
      Not all of the gardens at the park look so productive.  Actually few do.  After the snow and a day of rain, most of the gardens look more like this:

      I have to pick the route to my garden depending upon the weather.  Today I had to park on the lot by the barn, so I came this way.  And hoped that I wouldn't slip on a muddy path and end up in the soup.  After three years of lots of wood chips on the paths and leaves, leaves, and more leaves on the beds, my garden remains workable even now.  You can see my cold frames in the background in the photo above.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Upside Down I Planted, Duh

      Sometimes you can read too much on the internet.  I was researching leek seeds and sprouting, and saw a reference to leek seeds that said they were unique, as the plant emerged first from the seed, not the roots.  That confused me, so on my first transplanting, I stuck the black seeds in the soil with the "plant" up in the air.  Let me explain with pictures:

Leek seeds started on 1/12/2012
Leek sprout
     The first picture is the pile of remaining leek sprouts after my previous transplantings.  The picture above includes a shot of my trusty little 2.25 inch Swiss army knife for size reference.  The little tweezers are perfect for grabbing the seed heads to tease the leeks apart.  On the sprout above, the seed is on the left side, the green part is the stem, and the little white part on the right is the main root emerging.  So, if you plant the seed down in the soil, you have planted upside down.  Duh.  And now you need to go back and reverse 100 little plants that you did a couple of days ago.  Many do look like they will make it.

Eleven day old leek sprouts
      Having learned a bit from that blunder, the new plan is to put the sprouts on soil, then using a small screw driver, tease the white root part into the soil.  That works pretty well.  These plants are obviously planted too close to each other and will need to be separated after they are two to three inches tall.  They will then be put into a bed to grow to maybe a foot tall, when they should be transplanted one last time for final grow out.  All the transplanting allows for the leeks to be planted more deeply each time.  That will blanch the bottom part of the leek for that nice white appearance.

Leek harvested 5/5/2011

      This leek was actually a volunteer last year, and the one and only leek I had.  This coming spring I will probably harvest a dozen that are now in the garden.  They are one of the most cold hardy crops, and will overwinter successfully even without protection.   So what I am starting now are intended mostly for January of 2013 or next spring.  I cleaned up the leek from above:

and enjoyed his company immensely.  Had I transplanted the leek to a deeper hole last summer or fall, that nice white part would be maybe eight inches long.  So now, I am thinking about the leek and potato soup that  I woulda, coulda, and shoulda made last spring!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Just a Little Snow

I am the lone crazy gardener at the park
      Yesterday brought us the first snow of the season, about three inches.  Enough to cover everything, and make outdoor work pointless.  It is supposed to be 50 degrees and raining tomorrow, so I didn't even bother to shovel the driveway.  The cold frames will be snug with their snow insulation for today.

Back yard cold frames,  1/22/1012
My collards under the snow
My neighbor's collards under the snow!!
Snow quiet cold frames
Vole highways under the snow
Oops, forgot to cover my bin, ... again

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yummy Collard Greens

      Collard greens are one of the few unprotected veggies still standing up to the rigors of winter.  They will look pretty soft and dehydrated after a particularly cold evening, but then they bounce back when the weather improves.  My little stand of three collard plants was looking very good, so three days ago I harvested some of the outer leaves.

Collards to harvest,  1/18/2012
      We usually prepare collards in the same way as kale, that is sauteed with garlic and onions.  Good, but we prefer the kale.  Having heard about slow cooked or crock pot collards, I have always wanted to try some.  So yesterday I searched the web for a recipe, and found one that sounded good:

      I found smoked pork hocks at the supermarket so bought the two pack.  Diced an onion from the supply on the porch, and four beautiful garlic cloves from my summer supply.  Simmered this for two hours, then removed the pork hocks to pick the meat.

Picked pork hock
Collard leaves,  1/20/2012
      The collard leaves were stripped and cut into inch wide ribbons.  Turns out that it would be better to cut the collards into one or two inch squares, as it would then be easier to eat the smaller pieces.  I put in two of my dried cayenne peppers, including the seeds.  Then simmered everything for another five hours.
      And it turned out to be delicious.  With just the right amount of bite from the cayenne peppers.  We ate some today as a soup, but you could also drain it to eat as a side dish.  The liquid that is left is "pot likker".  Don't throw that delicious stuff away.  Instead use it as stock for some other soup.  I am going to look for wontons.  Added to the pot likker, it would be delicious instant wonton soup.
      Pretty darn good for my first solo soup experiment.

Be Careful What You Wish For

      Wow.  The paper towel germination method!  There have been times that no basil came up from a planting in cell packs.  Well these basil seeds are certainly coming up.

Boy did they sprout,  1/20/2012

A little closer, 1/20/2012
      Whoops, we have a little problem.  The shoots are doing so well, that they have rooted right through the paper towels.  Little white roots on the other side of the towel.  A picture would not really show the roots against the white towel, so you will have to believe me when I say, "I should have done this earlier".  So now it is too late to remove the sprouts from the towel, so we will plant them towel and all.

      With this method, I teased the towel into little pieces, then covered up those pieces with some dirt.  The towel will rot away, and I may try to divide the plants later.

Plan B,  1/20/2012
      Having quickly realized that Plan A was quite tedious, I moved on to Plan B.  I cut the towel into bigger pieces, then placed those pieces over dirt.  Then I sprinkled dirt over the sprouts, trying not to bury them.  If Plan B works, I will have very successfully delayed my greatest time requirement to another day.  Pretty clever, kidding myself.  So easy too.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

With Just a Little Help

Still no snow,  1/19/12
      This picture shows the corner of a cold frame, and an unprotected bed just above it.  There is a patch of lettuce at the left of the above bed, and although the lettuce may be alive, it is not worth salivating over.

Surprisingly alive, but barely
      I am surprised that the unprotected lettuce has not turned to mush, as a month ago we had a low of 13 degrees, just had a recent 15 degrees, and last night was 18 degrees.  I may dig up the lettuce to repot to the porch for some recovery time before replanting to a cold frame.

Cold frame,  1/19/12
      But with just a single pane of glass on the cold frame, this lettuce looks delicious.  Pickable in fact.  In time for a trip to daughter Emily's fridge tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paper Towel Seed Germination

      The earlier post about the life expectancy of seeds got the old sap flowing in my veins to get some of those seeds started or trashed.  I have read about germinating seeds in moist paper towels to get little sprouts for transferring to cell packs.  The upside is that one can set the seeds up for germination in just a matter of minutes.  The downside is if you are successful with the germination, there is a heck of a lot of transplanting tiny seedlings required.  And yet, with all of the aging seed I have on hand, the temptation for easy germination has won out.
      The basic idea is to moisten a paper towel, place seeds on it, fold the outer edges of the towel over the seeds, then place it in a plastic bag or sealed plastic container to await germination.  Time required to germinate the seeds should be close to the suggested time on the seed packet.

Onion Seeds to dampen,  1/12/2012
      The photo above is of onion seed placed on a towel on 1/12/12.  I then used a small eye dropper to get a few drops of water to moisten the towel, not to flood the container.  The towel was then folded over the seeds and the container put on the shelf.

Parsley seeds,  1/12/2012
      I have found parsley seeds to be difficult to get good germination in the past.  This method seems worth a try.  These were dampened, and the towel folded over the seeds to make a little square packet.  This packet was then slid into a sandwich bag with a label.  You can watch the swelling and development of root hairs without having to pull the packet out of the bag.

Parsley ready to start,  1/12/2012
      On 1/12/12 I started this extra curled parsley, Krausa parsley, giant red celery (tiny seeds), American flag leeks, red burgundy onions, yellow sweet Spanish onions, giant winter spinach, American spinach, and sweet basil.  Yesterday, on 1/16/2012, I put on towels, more American spinach, corn salad (no germination last year), salsify (new to me), parsnips (no germination last year), Australian brown onions, and Lisbon white bunching onions.

Dollar store containers work well
      The basil I had started was not because of short seed life, but rather that in past years I have often had lousy germination.  Last year was pretty good, and this year is already looking good as the seed started five days ago is already sprouted!

Basil,  1/17/2012
      Lots of the basil seeds have sprouted roots, and some have little green buds that will be leaves.  I used my trusty little spatula (from my grandmother's kitchen) to move some of those budded seedlings.  Put them two to a cell, as they would not be too crowded if they all survived.  The cell packs were then covered with small panes of glass to maintain the high humidity for a couple of days.

Basil seedlings,  1/17/2012
      Peppers are next on my agenda, as they are slow to germinate and slow to grow.  This method seems to have promise, as it eliminates the possibility of waiting around for a month for a flat to show some sign of germination.  I will be very busy however, as the leeks, onions, and spinach planted on 1/12/2012 are all showing signs of root growth.  I might pot up the leeks even before any green stem growth.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Park Garden, 1/15/2012

      Here we are at the 15th of the month again, so time for a recap.  It is cold this morning at 11:00 AM, with the car exterior thermometer registering 23 Degrees.  And some wind to boot.  I would not usually open a cold frame in such conditions, yet Cindy wants some greens to top a Taco dip.  So I will try to harvest quickly so as to not freeze anything.

Collards, alive, yet not happy

      The thick stem chinese mustard on the right side of this shot is supposed to be capable of handling temperatures down to 6 degrees F.  The small inner leaves are still alive, but the majority of the leaves do not appear to be edible at this time.  I may end up transplanting some of these into cold frames if some space becomes available.  There are Beedy's Camden kale plants to the left of the mustard.  They too should be alive, but look even less enticing than the mustard.

Oops, the Artichokes don't look happy at all
Egyptian onions await warmer weather
Newest cold frame
Same cold frame, left side
Unprotected bed, mixed greens and garlic
Mizuna mustard, top left corner
      Most of the rest of the garden pictures will be covered frames, as I did not want to expose the plants to the sub freezing air.  This shot is of the transplanted mizuna, and lots of volunteer celery.

Arugula ready to pick when weather improves
Picked from this frame today, 1/15/2012

Last of the frames
Unprotected Tango lettuce

Sleave of lettuce picked 1/15/2012
Nice harvest, 1/15/2012
      I picked the lettuce as quickly as I could, as I had to open up the cold frame.  Saw nary a slug, as they must have been hiding from the cold.  I tucked the bag of greens into my jacket for the walk back to the car, and as you can see, they turned out just fine.