Sunday, October 30, 2011

After the Nor'easter

      We dodged another hyped storm here in Wilmington.  A very good thing in my estimation.  Areas in Maryland and Pennsylvania got over two feet, and there are massive power outages caused by fully leaved trees being toppled due to the heavy sticky snow.  We got maybe an inch in places, but I still wondered what may have happened to my gardens.  After breakfast, I headed out back.

      Above is the recently constructed cold frame cozily covered by a layer of snow.  I just planted some of this frame a week ago, and it contains some flats of veggie starts not yet in the ground.  The snow should melt off, as we are expecting a high of 50 today.

      This a cold frame with various lettuces.  It will be ready for harvesting in a few days.

      Here are some tomatoes that I might pick today.  Daughter Emily has a recipe for green tomatoes that she likes.  Maybe this is the opportune time to try it.

      The trip over to the park revealed beds in pretty good shape.  Shown above are two stacks of glass panels that I coulda, woulda, shoulda have put down two days ago before the storm.  Duh.  And yet I thought that the forecast low of 32 degrees would not hurt any of these fall crops, and I was right.  Lucky, as it would have been a really big dumb moment to find a scene of mass destruction this morning.

      The cardoon on the right survived much better than I had expected.  I was prepared to see the plants totally broken and knocked over.  Only a leaf or two were broken.  I have still to get the inspiration to cut the cardoon and cook it.  Any suggestions appreciated.
      The nasturtium in the background was quite a pleasant surprise.  It is very frost sensitive and goes to mush when iced.  I better pick it today or find a way to cover it as tonight is supposed to be sub freezing.  The onions on the left are Egyptian walking onions.  They are eaten as green onions or scallions, and are just now ready for picking.  Emily, do you see those yummies?

      On the left above is a patch of arugula, and on the right the patch of tatsoi.  Both are pretty cold tolerant, and neither seemed to suffer at all.  Both could use some thinning of plants to move to other cold frames.  Any interest out there?

      Above are mixed greens, lettuces, garlic, and more arugula.  Everybody quite happy after the storm.  All should survive temperatures above 28 degrees.

      A closer look at the nasturtium, with an artichoke nestled in.

      A closer shot of the cardoon.  Cardoon and artichokes are closely related, both being in the thistle family.

      The chinese cabbage is looking better and better.  I pray thet some deer doesn't think so too.

      Nasturtium, artichoke, black seeded simpson and a red lettuce all happily crowded together with a dusting of snow.

       And to say goodbye for the moment, a second generation volunteer sunflower for the season.  This plant sprouted from seed dropped from a volunteer early in the summer.  This is the first bloom, and maybe the last.  Perhaps this plant should have waited until next year to sprout.  But yet a pleasant way to start a snowy morning

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Snow!!

      It's crazy.  It's October, the leaves are still hanging on to most trees, yet it is snowing.  A Noreaster is moving up the coast, with places in Maryland and Pennsylvania having received 10 inches of snow!  I still have peppers on the plants out back, and was going to pick them if this weather wasn't quite so yucky.  Two nice big Dr. Wyche tomatoes are still on the vine.  But instead of nice Indian Summer weather, we have white slush.
      Luckily there is a bit of cheer.  My Bird of Paradise that I've had for 25 years is faithfully performing its fall or winter ritual of beautiful bloom.  The show is just starting as it will continue to unfold as the days go by.  It is a ray of sunshine.

Bird of Paradise, 10/29/11

      You can see the Pin Oak tree in the background.  Most of the leaves still on the tree, yet it is snowing.  I wonder what the park garden will look like tomorrow.
      5:00 PM update.  The slop has turned into all snow, so it is not as bad to make the trip back to the garden.  And it was worth it to rescue these peppers if we get a freeze tonight.  In the bucket are assorted sweet peppers, and there are two plants of cayenne peppers pulled by the roots with the peppers still attached.  When the plants dry off, I think I will hang them in the porch for awhile.

Last of the pepper harvest, 10/29/11


Friday, October 28, 2011

Salad Fixings

Salad greens from Bellevue, 10/27/11

      The fall greens are coming along so well at my park plot that I need to pick nearly everyday.  We had a wonderful salad of these beautiful mixed salad greens, plus one of the remaining Dr. Wyche tomatoes and THE last, boo, Cherokee Purple tomato.  Also added was a big fat carrot from the garden.  It was far to ugly a carrot to deserve a photo, but was delicious none the less.  And to top it off, were these bad boys below,

Radishes, 10/27/11

      I planted white radishes and mixed radishes about 5 weeks ago.  These are the best radishes I have ever grown.  Apparently the secret is a fall crop, with the cool loving radishes finding cooler weather as they grow, rather than being fried out by some heat wave in the spring.  I'm a believer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Travelin Gardener

      My daughter Barb and her husband Rob are both so busy with little things like life, jobs, and three children, that they have not had time for important things like planting the cold frame.  Actually cold frames, three nice ones.  I can't let an asset like that go to waste, so yesterday the truck and I took a little trip south of the canal to wrestle weeds up close and personal.

      The frame in front became my target, as it had nothing of value growing in it.  The second frame is full of rambling cherry tomato plants that are still productive.  The third frame is full of cherry tomato plants, though I did not see much fruit.  The first and third frames were closed all summer, yet the plants survived in that heat.  Can't figure that one out.  Though the heat probably prevented the tomatoes in the third frame from setting fruit.

Frame prior to weed removal

Bed weeded and compost added

Pop Pop brought along his starter veggies  
Ah, much improved, 10/26/11

      Well, that is a nice start.  One down, to more to grow.  The top row has Beedy's Kale, and thick stemmed chinese mustard.  The second row has pink stemmed kale, and some more chinese mustard.  The second to bottom row is various lettuce plants, and the bottom row is frisee and Tango lettuce, as both of those will stay short.  Now if only I had a Pop Pop to help with my gardens.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mushroom Mountains

      In the spring, some of the gardeners over at the park buy mushroom soil from mushroom growers in nearby Pennsylvania.  Me being the cheapo gardener that I am, have not been willing to pay the $100 for a big load to be dumped.  Shredded leaves have been good enough for old George.  Yet I have stood in awe next to a garden blessed with mushroom soil as the plants explode into growth, leaving my garden well behind in the race to have pickable produce.
      So what is mushroom soil?  In our area it is probably a mix of horse manure and used bedding straw.  That is first composted by the farmer to raise the temperature and break it down a bit.  Then it is steam sterilized, spread in mushroom houses, and inoculated with mushroom spawn.  The mushrooms feed on the organics in the mushroom compost, grow to maturity, and are harvested.  The soil is then known as "spent mushroom compost" and is sterilized once again before being removed for disposal from the mushroom house.  Weed free from the composting and steaming procedures.  The mushroom soil (2-1-1, ph 6.8) is then used as an organic fertilizer or soil amender.  I was surprised at how weak those fertilizer numbers are, so a great part of the value is in the organic roughage that it adds to soil.
      A couple of the long time gardeners and mushroom soil buyers at the park were recently contacted by the farmer who has been selling the soil.  Apparently it is easier to sell mushrooms to eat, than it is to sell mushroom soil to garden.  He needed to get in a new crop of mushrooms in the houses, and had no place to get rid of the spent mushroom soil in the houses.  If the park could take 30 to 50 truckloads, he would deliver it for FREE.  As in totally free!!!  But it had to be that many, or nothing doing.
      Thus began the negotiations with the park manager about where we could put this free bounty.  Some gardens on the edges could take deliveries directly, but the bulk of it would go along the side by the park compost piles, mostly out of sight from the public.  The next problem was the wet soil at the park from summer and fall rains creating the possibility of the truck getting stuck.  So after a stretch of decent weather, the mushroom truck started dropping its treasure.

      So now when I go to the park I usually take my pitch fork and 20 gallon tupperware containers.  A full container is quite heavy as the soil currently has a high water content.  I can move a container into my wagon or a wheel barrow, but certainly can not carry one any distance.  It is thus a tedious procedure to haul the stuff to my interior garden, where I then painstakingly apply it around plants, trowel by trowel.  It does look pretty on the garden, and I do expect an explosion of growth in the fall garden.

Update: 10/24/11   Yesterday I arrived at the park at about 8:00 AM to load some wood chips to augment the path areas.  I was surprised to see the big mushroom truck there already.  With his dumper elevated but nothing else happening.  I forked three containers of chips, and still nothing happening with the truck.  I saw movement in the cab and concluded the driver was having a smoke or a chat on his cell phone.  I went over to the mushroom pile near my garden to get a container of that black gold.  Still no truck movement.  As I left the park, I stopped to chat with the gate attendant, Jay.  Jay's comment, "See your buddy, the mushroom soil guy, got stuck."  Ah, mystery solved.  Will they quit deliveries now?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ah, Fall Gardening

      At last the fall gardening season is upon us.  Cooler temperatures enjoyed by both the plants and the gardeners.  Still a thousand things to do.  Construct new cold frames, thin and move the fall veggie starts, haul more mushroom soil, then haul more wood chips.  Keeps me out of trouble.
      I was over to the park garden early yesterday, shortly after the sun was brightening the sky at 7:30 AM.  By 8:30, the sun was just peeking over the tops of the oak trees and dappling beautiful splashes of color on the veggies.

      The light green lettuce in the middle above is Winter Marvel Bibb Lettuce by Fedco seeds.  It makes beautiful little head lettuce for a single salad.  Almost too beautiful to eat.  The germination was pretty spotty, so I need to separate and replant the ones that did come up.

      This beauty above is a chinese cabbage, also known as napa cabbage.  It is just beginning to form the tight interior head.  It will have a very mild flavor, much lighter than head cabbage.  This is one of several volunteers around the garden, hopefully the Tenderheart Hybrid from Territorial seeds.

      Above is Tah Tsai, a chinese green.  Lots of Tah Tsai.  Soon enough to pick as the main ingredient in a nice salad.

      Only a couple of nasturtium plants survived germination and transplanting early in the year.  But these thrived.  They need to be harvested for their peppery leaves.  Quite a kick.  But soon, as they are very frost sensitive, turning into a sloppy mess in even a light frost.

      The block to the right above is arugula.  I am harvesting some of the small leaves now.  Have been thinking about installing motion activated cameras to protect the crop from two legged varmints like my two daughters.

      The light green lettuce is Tango, by Fedco.  Absolutely gorgeous, quite cold tolerant.
      Simply Scrumptious.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What is it?


      I looked down in the back yard garden yesterday and spotted this little string of five black thingies.  Eew.  Yucko looking.  So what is it?  Maybe a deposit left from a visiting hawk or fox?  The black things look kind of like plastic, but unlike any kid's toy that I am aware of.
      Duh, I figured it out when I picked it up.  Care to make a guess?