Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Salad Time

It's spring, and it is snowing.  The high today is in the upper 20's.  Last year we hit 80.  I am so anxious to get the plants outside in the ground, but we are a few weeks away from that as the ground is still frozen.  Even though I have already started a lot inside, there is a lot more to go, and I was counting on having some of these outside already. I am running out of grow light room!

Regardless though, I started our lettuce today.  I am only strarting one variety indoors, the rest I will direct sow in a few weeks.  Rocky Top Mix.  This is perfect for salad.  We will buy romaine and add lettuce and greens from our garden in with it for variety.  I started only 8 plants for right now.  Like I said, I will be planting more directly outside when the ground thaws.  We also use our kale, swiss chard, beet greens, and spinach in salad, so we do not need as much "lettuce".  This just adds a little more color and texture.  And it grows fast :)

This is our little snow covered herb and lettuce garden, it goes along the side of our garage between the garage and the house.  It is thinner, and get's a good amount of shade.  Being between the garage and the house gives it a lot of shelter too from the winds.  When everything was bone dry last summer, this bed stayed moist a little longer and  did not need to be watered as much.  It's perfect for lettuce.  Last year we planted our lettuce, greens, and garlic here.  The garlic has been moved to a raised bed this year, and our herbs moved here in the fall to make way for a larger tomato garden.  I am hoping the herbs survived.

Even this little squirrel that is eating all my bird feed is ready for spring . . .

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spinach, Full Of Health!

Spinach, Monstreux D'Viroplay.  It went in to the dirt today.  I planted 8 plants.

Last years spinach was from a seed packet purchased who know when, from who knows where.  I am hoping I will have more success with this variety, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Now that the majority of my early seeds are planted and under the light, I am planting smaller quantities at a time.  I d not have a lot of small planting containers, so I am using a tray that my husband brought home these delicious chocolate pistachio doughnut things in.  It works perfect as it allows the seeds a lot of light, which warms the soil, and helps the seeds germinate.

We used most of our spinach fresh last year.  As salad, in salads, sandwiches, omelettes, as a side for dinner, you name it.  We did not have nearly as much spinach as we did kale and swiss chard last year.  Hoping this years crop will be more plentiful.

Next week . . .lettuce.

Spring, we are ready.

I am trying to be patient.  Really I am.  We had a nice weekend with temps up to 60 degrees.  Now today is another story, its hovering around freezing and we have had snow flurries.  Spring came early last year, and caused a lot of damage to fruit crops around here, so I don't want to rush it this year, but I am ready to see
green. Last year at this time I had already planted our spinach, kale, and swiss chard outside, and I was getting ready to put all of our herbs outside.  No where near ready this year.

The counter is full under our grow light right now.  I am hoping we do not have to set up another.  I have moved the leeks and rhubarb to the windowsill in the kitchen.  The leeks are doing great, they are about 3-4 inches tall right now, the rhubarb has been looking slightly wilted so I am moving it back under the grow lights for today.

Just about all of the tomatoes have now sprouted.  I am cutting back the plants as they come in so there is only one in each pot.  Every time I snip the second or third plant coming up, I feel like I am cutting off an arm.  But I know it is for the best.  Doing so allows the surviving plant to get all the nutrients and have all the space it needs. The peppers are looking very healthy.  I am excited as my peppers did not start to well indoors last year.

I want to get the luffa gourds potted but I am trying to hold off until the ground thaws so I can get the kale and a few other hardy plants outside.

I have been saving milk jugs the past few weeks.  I rinsed them out, and cut the bottom off.  They will make perfect little mini greenhouses for when the plants first move outside.  Last year I used mason jars, which worked great, but the plants quickly grew to touch the top of the jars.  Once I move the plants outside, I keep an eye on the weather and when it seems like there could be a frost, I cover them at night.

My sister Becky got married late last summer, and had tulip bulbs as wedding favors.  I tried planting them in the ground over the weekend, but it was still frozen.  They are sitting in bowls filled with an inch or so of rocks, then filled with water.  Overnight the roots started sprouting like crazy, and the buds are growing super fast too.  I am hoping in two weeks I can plant them outside, but for now, our little kitchen table it looking like spring.  And I don't mind.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

23 Tomato Plants

We love fresh tomatoes from the garden.  The taste can not be duplicated.  Tomatoes from the grocery store do not compare.  The majority of tomatoes that you get in the store are bland, tasteless, and mealy.  That is why I would consider tomatoes to be the most rewarding to plant.  Not to mention you can get packet of 25 organic heirloom tomato seeds for $2, try beating that price.  That is 25 tomato plants you could grow for $2.

We planted 23 plants.  It sounds like a lot, and I guess it kind of is, but once you break it down it does not sound so bad (or good).

 This is what tomato seeds look like, and the hands of my beautiful daughter :)  Her hands are way cuter than mine, so she is now my hand model.  We plan to save our seeds this year, so hopefully we will have more for next year.

We planted 5  tomatillo plants last year. Grande Rio Verde specifically. They grow about as tall as a tomato plant, but are not as bushy and full, and do not produce as much fruit.   The fruit is pretty interesting, the size varies but most were about the size of a golf ball, and covered with a husk.  The husks grow bigger and faster than the fruit inside.  When the fruit fills out in the husk, and the husk stars to split, they are ready.  The fruit is super sticky, and they are kind of a pain to pull off the husk and wash off the stickiness. I used them sparingly fresh from the garden, and canned the majority of them as salsa verde.  Being that I still have a half a dozen pints left, I am only planting one lonely tomatillo plant this year.   These tomatillos will be used fresh, no canning this year. 

Snacking Tomatoes
I call these snacking tomatoes, as that is what the are used for.  Last year we were picking about a pint of these a day.  My son can easily polish off a pint on his own in one sitting, so it worked well.  I shared them with neighbors, and at work.  I am secretly planting a plant of each for our neighbors, Mrs. Cindy and Mr. Dan, as they liked them a lot too.

Black Cherry Tomato
This is one we will probably plant every year now, and it is our second year planting it.  The fruit is about the size of a normal cherry tomato, and the color varies from a greenish red, to a dark red.  All the tomato eaters at my house love these!

Egg Yolk
I like small yellow tomatoes, butt he yellow pear tomatoes we planted last year were slightly mealy so I wanted to try a different variety.  Very excited to try these, I love having all different colors of tomatoes.

Slicing Tomatoes

These I plant to slice for sandwiches, salads, and whatever else we can use them for right off the vine.  If you are Jonathan that means it is perfectly acceptable to pick a tomato off the vine and eat it like an apple.

Red Tomato - Riesentraube
This was a free gift that came with our seed order.  Therefor it must be planted.  I am only planting 2 plants as I am not sure what to expect.

Bonny Best
I bought these because my mother in law's name is Bonnie, and I like her :) I am planting 3 plants. And they have rave reviews. I plan to use them for slicing, and the over abundance for canning.
  Here is the description from Baker Heirloom Creek's website:
The famous old canning tomato that was introduced in 1908 by Bonnie Plant Farm in Union Spring, Alabama. It became one of the most respected canning varieties in America in the first half of the twentieth century. Medium-sized fruit are round, red, meaty and loaded with flavor. A good producer that makes a fine slicer too. Becoming hard to find due to modern, flavorless hybrids.
How could I not buy them after reading that?

Solar Flair
These seeds were a special addition to Baker Creek's catalog this year from Wild Boar Farms. I am also planting 3 of these. I read a very interesting article about the farmer, and had to try them, and they look gorgeous.  Again, they will be used for slicing, and the excess will be canned or frozen.

Amish Paste Tomatoes
This is the third year we have planted this variety.  The first year we were in the process of moving, and I planted them in my parent's garden.  These are great canning tomatoes, and great for sauce, as there is not a lot of juice in them. That is why I am planting 6 plants. They are similar to a roma tomato, but even better if you ask me.  I will plant these every year.

  I planted all of the tomato in peat pots.  I hate peat pots.  They suck the moisture out of the soil, get moldy if you water them a lot, and they never compost like the description says.  But . . .they were the only pot I could find in the size I wanted.  So I am using them.  I will not plant them however, I will take the plants out before planting, and then compost the pots.  They take forever to break down.

This is what happens when you lose the lid to your only small seed tray.  It has been replaced with a crockpot liner bag, and it's the perfect size.  I do not use these in the crockpot, that would be like microwaving in plastic and that gives me the heebie jeevies.

And this is what it looks like when you run out of plant markers.

I am so excited to have my tomatoes planted, I am sure I will have more updates on them soon.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Swiss Chard, Kale, And A Seedling Update

Today I planted 4 seeds of both Swiss Chard and Kale.  Well I guess I planted 8 of each, 2 in each section, but I will cut back the weaker or second one to sprout.  I will only keep 4 of each.  This is important so each little section in the tray is not over crowded, and so the remaining seedling can get all the nutrients to grow.  Planting an extra seed just help bump up the germination rate, pretty much guaranteeing that a seed will sprout in each section.  And some of my seed packets have 250 seeds in them, it's not like I am ever going to plant that many. 

Swiss Chard
This is our second year planting Swiss Chard.  This is one of the first veggies to go in the garden, along with kale.  We are planing Rainbow Swiss Chard again, from the same seed packet we purchased last year from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I love the rainbow variety.  You get stalks in varying shades of off white, yellow, orange, and pink.  As long as you cut your swiss chard on a regular basis, it will keep growing back.  I always cut the outer larger leaves, leaving the new ones to grow in the middle.  We planted this last spring, and it lasted until late fall.  We will cut up swiss chard and use it in salad, saute it like you would spinach.  I made a swiss chard gratin last year that was great.  This is what the swiss chard seeds look like:

This is our third year planting kale.  We planted it at the condo when we lived there too.  This year we are planting Blue Curled Scotch Kale from Baker Creek.  Last year we had a Red Kale, and I really wanted to plant a more traditional kale this year.  This stuff is so hardy, it's takes plenty of abuse, and still produces well.  Kale is also one of the first plants to go in the garden, and one of the last to come out.  If you don't cut it on a regular basis, it will bolt and flower or go to seed.  Sometimes during the summer we just can't eat any more, so I will a big cut and cut them way down.  Just like the swiss chard, you can easily blanch the leaves, and freeze.  We have been using up both from last summer, and still have more in the freezer.  There are so many uses for kale.  It's great in smoothies, you can chop up some in mashed potatoes, put it in omelets, make kale chips, use it in salad, soup, saute it, really it's very versatile.  The kale seeds are much smaller than the swiss chard seeds, they look very similar to the cabbage seeds, itty bitty little round black balls.  If you drop one, it may never be seen again.

The rhubarb seedlings are doing very well, they love the grow light they have been under this past week.  They are starting to get their second leaves in. 

The cabbage was an early sprouter, these things germinated in just a few days, and they are growing very fast.

The cauliflower seedlings were just a day or so behind them, but they are coming in a little slower. 

The pepper seeds have not sprouted yet.  Hopefully raising the temperature in the dirt this weekend, while they sit on the warm running dryer, will help them along.  Doesn't surprise me  though, peppers take a while to germinate, and they are slow growers.  I am guessing the kale and swiss chard will sprout about the same time as the peppers.

I am waiting for the snow to go away, last year our beets, swiss chard, and kale all went in the ground mid March, I don't think they will be going in as early this year.