Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Greens

       Yes there was a fall harvest.  Several gorgeous open heads of radicchio developed from a spring seeding of a Burpee mesclun mix.  I just had to try to make a salad wreath from the radicchio picked Wednesday, November 24th.
      The only plants to make it through the hot summer from the spring mesclun planting were several of these beautiful bronze flat heads.  After lots of picture surfing on the web, I have concluded that they are radicchio.  I have no clue as to which variety. 
       These were the various greens picked to stuff around the radicchio. On the counter are pickings of mizuna mustard, chinese greens, red russian kale, tango lettuce, pea plant tops, tah tsoi, pak choy, frizze, arugula, red ribbed dandelion, and oak leaf lettuce. 
      Pictured above is the completed project.  Turned out to be both beautiful and delicious.  It is now the middle of January as I am rewriting this as a Blog post, and wow do I wish that I could sit down with this beauty for dinner!
      After the Thanksgiving feast, I took daughter Barb over to the park to look at the garden.  Somebody had cut and taken my other five radicchio heads and topped out the red ribbed dandelions!   Nothing else was taken, but to say I was irate and bummed is a major understatement.  Foul words were probably heard at the park. To rip off a fellow gardener on Thanksgiving was an insult to all gardeners.  The Friday morning after Thanksgiving I went over to the park to resurvey the damage under better light.  Nothing else taken or amiss.  Looking very carefully in one bed near the dandelions, I spied one, then another and yet another foot print!  I was going to go to the park office to see, if with my new evidence I could have the culprit arrested, but I didn't really expect that they had identifying deer hoof prints on file.  So, with the crime solved my anger was significantly appeased.  I had been visited by the dastardly deer herd, not two legged thieves.  Much easier to accept than some other gardener helping themselves.  Interesting that the only things chomped were both of the chicory family.  And lucky that the topped produce will regrow over time from the deep tap roots.  So the gardening goes on.  Have to build some cold frames to protect some things from the oncoming winter.  Hoping your Thanksgiving was good -  George

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Horse sh..., manure story

    Wrote this before my blogging days, so it doesn't have any neat little pictures.  

From an email from my sister Sally, without her permission.  Hope you don't mind kiddo.
     Just got back from shoveling a load of horse manure into the truck.  Might wait for Mark to help me shovel it out!  I'm so aware of the need for soil improvement.  Thank goodness I found a free source of manure.  The 20 mile drive is a very pleasant one, through some beautiful countryside.

    So you think she must be weird like her little brother.  That we must come from a gardening family.  Nope, Dad was a lawyer/banker who thought it was totally illogical for people to spend big time and money for gardening when you could just go to the store and buy a perfectly horrible tomato.  Mom would try year after year to grow tomatoes in the one spot in the yard that got four hours of sun a day.  You already know that result.  Dad's only respect for my gardening endeavors was that he was intrigued when the purple beans miraculously turned green upon cooking.
    Enough already, what about horse sh..., manure.  When I was eight years old, our family moved into a big old stone barn that had been remodeled into a very neat place for a kid to call home.  Across the street lived David, my age, and Larry his brother who was a couple of years older though none the wiser than us youngins.  They were my buddies in crime growing up, till college moved me away.  Well David and Larry's father, Mr. G. - I won't use his name for fear that he might rise from the dead to come back and thrash me - was into the horses.  The ones that had the little carts behind, the sulkies?  Mr. G. had a brilliant idea that he could own a horse and race it.  And of course become a millionaire.  And retire and live happily ever after.  He got permission from a neighbor to clear a couple of acres of woods behind us to build a corral and a two stall horse barn.  He did this I think by his own hand, so you can well imagine the time, money, energy and sweat poured into that black hole.  Well the horse did what most horses do which was eat and sh.., and not win horse races.  In the meantime, the horse manure pile grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger still.  I suspect that being on fairly high ground in Delaware to start with, that the top of Mount Manure may well have been the highest point in the lowly state.
    Well after a couple of years of non winnings, the horse farm was shut down.  A couple of years later yet, I was out looking for raspberries - even back then - and remembered that they grew in the overgrown remnants of the horse corral.  A better place to look than the patch across the street protected by the stinging nettles mixed in.  Well after a time, I found a patch of berries that were the biggest, plumpest, most delicious berries I had ever seen or tasted, even to this day.  Yep, you guessed it.  Growing upon the remnants of Mount Manure were the best berries this world has ever seen.  Bar none.  So if you want great berries, buy a horse?  The pick up truck method seems far easier.
    Maybe next year I'll go across town to see if anything is left of the patch some 40 years later.  Probably all shaded in.  Whoops I lied.  Come to think of it, it is more than 40 years later.
    Be Berry delicious. -  George

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Tomatoes are in!!

Summer is here, ain't it sweet!!

    Well, the tomatoes are fully and finally in.  Not just one tomato here or there, but enough to be proud of a real pickin.  Yesterday's haul is shown above, and is more tomatoes than I had all of last summer.  The summer that was gray and cool.  Comfortable for us human folk, but unproductive for tomatoes and peppers.  If there were only one crop I was allowed to put in my garden, it would be the luscious tomato, my symbol of summer eating at its best.

Pink Brandywine
Pink Brandywine

      The sun, captured in nature's own wrapper.  Picked right off the vine, still warm.  Tomato juice dribble down the front of another shirt, clear and telling evidence that I was snitching a freebie  when she thought I was dutifully collecting for dinner.  But well worth it.

More Brandywines
Chocolate Cherry
 You might get the impression that I like the Pink Brandywine.  Yes, a delicious tomato.  But also in the first picture are the wonderful yellow Jubilee and the darker tomato, the Black Krim.  New to me, fairly early, absolutely delicious, and the interior a dark burgundy.  And the Cherokee Purple, a delight.  Another tomato new to me this year was Dr. Wyche.  A large yellow tomato, firm when cut, with the appearance of mangoes.  Then the Chocolate Cherry tomato.  Full tomato flavor in such a small package.  And when picked in the fall, still delivering a fine home tomato surprise taste into December.  I will be growing all of these varieties again, as they are all winners.  Too bad the tomato season is so short.  There is NOTHING in the store to compare to a home grown tomato.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shady Characters

     The two trees define my backyard and back garden.  The Pin Oak in the back overhangs the garden, making a very productive area for the everbearing raspberries growing in its shadow.  The garden is in the shadow of the oak till late in the day, when the sun shines merrily for a couple of hours before settling in for the evening.  In the second shot taken from the garden looking back toward the house, one can see the trunk of the White Ash, which early in the morning casts its shadow all the way to the garden.  As the trees grow ever larger, the area for growing sun loving flowers and vegetables shrinks on an annual basis.  While many plants thrive, I was feeling that the tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants were stunted from the lack of adequate solar power.  Two years ago, I rented out a garden plot at Bellevue State Park to have a garden with unblocked and unbridled sun.  With my new plot I went veggie wild, planting everything at the park, including things like salad greens that actually prefer some shade.  Having had success at the park, I tried to double my return by renting a second plot this year to able to have a rambling squash garden for cantaloupe, melons, cukes and pumpkins.  Alas, the park program is in demand and gardens are now rationed one per renter.  The good news is that I will now have to do a better job with a lot of the ignored or under utilized space in the back garden.
     First, let's define full sun and partial shade:
  • Full Sun: At least 6 full hours of direct sunlight. Many sun lovers enjoy more than 6 hours per day, but need regular water to endure the heat.
  • Partial Sun / Partial Shade: These 2 terms are often used interchangeably to mean 3 - 6 hours of sun each day, preferably in the morning and early afternoon.
So what grows in partial or light shade?  Salad greens such as lettuce, arugula, swiss chard, spinach, endive, and chicories.  The cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, and radishes.  Plants of the pea and bean families.  Beets would be included, as they are actually the same plant as Swiss Chard, just a different cultivar.  Most of the berries actually like some shade, often growing in the wild as under story plants.  Obviously there are quite a few such shady characters that can be used for a very productive garden.  In list form:

  1. Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, and cress.
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Peas
  5. Beets
  6. Brussels Sprouts
  7. Radishes
  8. Swiss Chard
  9. Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
  10. Beans

     Plants demanding more sun are the fruiting plants such as tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, and the entire squash or cucurbit family.  Also needing a lot of sun are root crops such as onions, leeks, shallots and garlic.  In my experience, carrots will have better success with a lot of light.  Potatoes seem to do well enough out back in the dappled light.  Simple enough.  The sunny characters go to the park, and the shady ones go out to the back garden.  Now to start the seed!