Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter Berry Care

Ah, the delights of blackberries in the summer almost make up for the fact that it is a plant that does not take care of itself. My husband pruned it way back last week, but soon enough the canes will overtake the fence on the neighbors' side, and on our side, form a bower that is admittedly a bit charming to look at but annoying to walk under if you are grownup size. We don't give it any additional water although maybe we should rethink that during the Great Drought.
Barenaked berries

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Early Spring Planting

Spring planting is an actual thing where I live. It feels cruel given the arctic chill blanketing most of the rest of the country, but all I can say is, you get summer. We don't.

Getting money's worth out of new spring hat and knee socks from Target
Here during one of a recent string of 70-ish degree days, we planted radishes, lettuce, basil, cilantro, sugar snap peas and broccoli rabe. The kids put in carrots and flowers (ugh). This was all thanks to my husband, who spent a good chunk of time last weekend dealing with the weeds that had crept, then galloped, into the vegetable patch.

Over the winter, about every two weeks I planted lettuce, b. rabe, and a few other things that are supposed to be fine in cool weather. The rabe mysteriously sprouted very tall flowers before eking out a few heads (not edible). I have a few lettuce heads doing fine. That's about it - it has not been a four-season garden this year. In addition to gardener laziness, we did have a crazy rainy December, which definitely washed away a few sowings, and then basically dry for January and February.
"Hmm... where can I randomly scatter more seeds?"

The kids were pleased to get out there today and seemed to forget the squabbling that has dominated this weeklong school break. They even shared seeds. My son had a baggie of harvested zinnia seeds from his Zinnia on Steroids that was the shining star of his garden last year. I think between the two kids, they sprinkled them all on a one-foot square area. Should be showy in a couple months!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sowing Winter Crops

"Winter" is more of a state of mind than a weather shift around here. It was 70 yesterday, and we wore shorts for our garden work. (By the way, 70 is higher than the summertime average in our town. We get fog cover in the summertime.)  I finally pulled out two more cherry tomato plants, with some assistance, although the SuperSweet100 still has ripening fruit on it so I left it. When I tried those cherries, I realized their flavor profile is now more like a supermarket tomato (!), but still I guess it's better than nothing.
Clearing out his very productive SunGold

We turned over some dirt and got ready for our winter crops. My son got very excited about clearing his area and planting new seeds, so we did that even though rain is lurking in the forecast. Hopefully our seeds have enough protection from their straw mulch topping to not get washed away. We planted lettuce, cilantro, beets, and carrot seeds. Yeeeaahhh four season planting!
He wouldn't let anyone else touch his area!

My daughter got overly invested in harvesting some carrots - when I pull out one to gauge the crop's progress, she takes it as an invitation to pull as many as she can hold in one hand. Now the menu plan will need to incorporate carrots... lots of carrots. My cilantro is also looking healthy and happy so I need to cook some curries that will use it up. Admittedly some of my cilantro crop always goes to seed before I get to it, but I'm less bugged by that then when I used to buy a bunch of it at the store, use a quarter of it, and then the rest of it would rot in the crisper for a week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall Maintenance

The tomatoes are almost wrapped up, but there's still a few green (and ripe) ones on the Sun Gold, blueberry, and Sweet 100 plants, so I spared them for now. Almost everything else from the summer is out. I planted the pumpkin seed yesterday, but need more room for my next sowing of lettuce and cilantro. The weather is warm and sunny - predicted to hit 70 this coming weekend! My poor garden, how is it supposed to know what to do?

Friday, October 24, 2014

More Sowing, Less Reaping

Fall gardening turns out to be heavy on the lettuce sowing, light on the kids helping. They'd rather be making Halloween art than just about anything else. [Sidenote: I cannot believe Halloween is still a week away. I have Spooky Stuff Fatigue!] Today I finally pulled out the Stupid Green Zebra (official new name), and moved my thriving potted mint into its shady spot. The mint has been super-happy ever since I trimmed it back to nubs.
"Can I hold the hose? Can I? Can I? Can I?"

Elsewhere, I squeezed in a new round of seeds between the zucchini and the Sweet 100, both of which I'd intended to remove today but they talked me into a stay of execution for another week. The tomatoes may indeed keep producing; I picked a handful today and there's both orange and green fruit still on the plant. The zucchini has a couple teeny feeble starts, so I caved; I'm a softy.

From bottom: Carrots, cilantro, and assorted seedlings
I planted Salad Bowl lettuce, Detroit Dark Red beets, scallions, and organic cilantro from Burpee. The other recent sowings are coming along nicely, as shown in the photo. We've had a couple mornings of light rain and sunny, warm afternoons; I can only assume they are all loving it. I moved all my other pots into sunnier spots vacated by the green beans. Now that we're getting into what might actually merit the title of a "rainy season", they're going to need all the warmth they can get. My basil in fact still looks great.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chilly Halloween Fun

The day after planting a slew of new seeds, I invited a bunch of preschoolers over for a Halloween playdate, and of course we ended up in the backyard (NO WALLS CAN CONTAIN US!) and of course some of my seeds got trampled, or - let us say - worked deeper into the earth. We'll see what comes of them.

But it was worth it, because we were doing an awesome Halloween spooky ice activity - frozen hands with surprises inside. Tipped off by Anne from Left Brain Craft Brain to the post at Happy Hooligans, I prepped the latex gloves at noon, dumping a large portion of liquid red food coloring in each. I got them out of the freezer at 4 PM. They were mostly frozen and in fact if they had all been entirely solid it would have taken the kids a lot longer to harvest their toys. The project's mess was all contained in the yard, where the grass was in its death throes anyway. (The red does get all over fingers and clothes - could have used a couple of those gloves for myself!)

The three-year-old kids all loved digging in their icy hands for some period time, varying by attention span, but my big first grader may have enjoyed it the most. He didn't have any parental help (because I was scurrying around distributing supplies to everyone else), and he took the longest, extracting his toys and applying salt with almost surgical precision. He told me later that it was so much fun it made everything else about the day "boring". Um, sorry?

I was too rushed to follow the Happy Hooligans suggestion about removing the gloves carefully, so we did break some fingers and the moms amused ourselves by staging them in some unused dirt a la fresh corpses. Classy. Thanks to Anne for the photos!

I'm both glad and sad nobody got a photo of the "bloody" pile of surgical gloves left at the end. Revolting!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Planting

As much as I gripe about the weather around here, we do have the potential for four-season growing. Take that, New England and your beautiful fall leaves! Yesterday, we clipped our pumpkin fruits, leaving me free to pull out the pumpkin plants from the ground, along with my potted tomato that produced a grand total of maybe 6 tomatoes over the course of the year, and one of my two remaining potted basils. I planted from seed:
Bibb lettuce
Salad Bowl blend lettuce
Basil (ambitious, I know)
Beets, golden and red
Broccoli raab (last chance for this packet of seeds to impress me after lack of performance last go-round)

I still have four cherry tomatoes, two green beans, and a zucchini in the ground, all of which somehow managed to convince me they justified their dirt for at least another week. I also have a pretty row of leafy carrot greens and just enough cilantro for my own needs. It remains warm in the afternoons and cool overnight, hope my little seeds are cozy!

Normally I would not call myself an optimist, but you can't help it when sowing seeds... definitely part of why I keep at it.