Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winterization bearing down

The deadline at the Minton Stable Garden for winterizing one's plot is November 1. By this date gardeners are expected to cut back perennials, clear out annuals, and remove all of the fencing, tools, supports, bags of soil, and other items. The water has been shut off for the season, and only one more work day has been scheduled for the unfortunate few still needing to fulfill their four-hour requirement (or else their plot will be given to one of the thirty people on the waiting list).However, my raspberries and broccoli haven't received the memo. The rainy fall conditions have prolonged the growing season for both, with new berries for the former and the continued production of sideshoots for the latter. Otherwise, most everything else is ready to go. I had forgotten (or have been too embarrassed) to take a photo of my bean supports that fell over weeks ago. The tomatoes and peas are gone, and the perennials have been deadheaded but ready to be trimmed back completely. In about another week, material to be composted offsite will probably overflow on this tarp.One of my post ideas for earlier this summer was to showcase the elaborate supports built by my fellow gardeners. Some have been taken down already while others have the skeletal remains of whatever they supported clinging to them. Grotesquely bulging and overripe beans. Blighted tomato stems rotting against metal rings. If not slimy to the touch then crinkling from dryness. It's a shame I never got around to executing this idea, but there's always next season.

Here are a few photos of what's still up. A lean-to that the creator had intended for cucumbers (notice the nice brussel sprouts next to it).One substantial setup that once had peas climbing up strings, and still supporting the highest cosmos I've ever seen.One of several pea trellises made from pipes, broomsticks, and chicken wire.And one of my favorites: the arch connecting two raised beds designed for the handicapped. As in previous years, that will stay up throughout the winter, poking out from the snowbanks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Super Colossal gin-soaked garlic

Many of us gardeners are just not ready for our plots to go to bed. We know it's October, but we want to stay up a little longer. I'm no exception, and a post in Dark Creek Chronicles reminded me that October is the perfect time to start garlic. So I put "plant garlic" on my to-do list for the following week, and not long after, a post in Daphne's Dandelions explained how to prepare garlic cloves for planting. I was intrigued by this approach because a) of the mixed results my husband had in the past with growing garlic and b) she had success with this in the past.

The beauty of garlic is that you don't need to order bulbs, though some gardeners do to grow particular varieties. I just headed over to my local supermarket and bought a couple of bulbs. "Super Colossal Garlic" was written on the sign. I bought two for a total of 69 cents, took them home and googled "super colossal garlic," but didn't find much. One site described it as "the whimpy cousin of the California garlic in flavor if not in size." Ouch. But it also added that it was a "nice addition to soups, salads or to a roast." "Super colossal" is also a name used for types of olives and shrimp.Yesterday I soaked cloves from 1 1/2 bulbs in a baking soda/water solution as Daphne did, and today I peeled the cloves and soaked them some more. Daphne had used vodka, but I didn't have any, though I did have some really old gin left over from my wedding reception over 12 years ago, so I used that for a quick soak. I also found some information from Garlic Central about planting the bulbs. Because it contains the antifungal compound allicin, there can be benefits from planting it near some other crops, such as lettuce where it can help keep aphids away. However, it doesn't do well near peas, potatoes, or legumes.I planted my cloves in four different places. At home I'm short on sunlight and at the Minton Stable Garden I'm short on space. I planted around 14 cloves, 6 at the MSG (above), 6 in a backyard plot where I can usually get in a spring crop of lettuce and peas before the leaves shade things out, in a box along a fence behind my house near a spot where basil grew successfully, and in a couple of pots on the front upstairs porch. We'll see if by next August if there will be any garlic ready to add to that first batch of salsa.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday harvest tally and frost casualties

In past years, no matter what else was going on, I had always kept up with the forecast, ready to grab the last pine nuts at the Harvest Coop and fire up the salad spinner and Cuisinart to get the pesto factory going. It was a family project that kept us up late, and the sharp aroma from bags of uprooted basil plants waiting to be "deleafed" would take over the kitchen.

Didn't someone mention frost last week? Maybe I read it in some other blog post or even wrote about it myself. In any case, the concept seemed far off in the future. Then on Wednesday morning I had to scrape ice from my windshield. Oops. Later that day in the Minton Stable Garden my fears were confirmed when I discovered what had happened to my basil (see below). Karen, another gardener, thought that I could still dry it and grind it up, so I pulled up and bagged the plants. I left the bag on the kitchen counter at home and got busy with other stuff, and the bag disappeared...That was the bad news. Luckily, there were no herb casualties on the home front, which was fortunate considering that the six basil plants in containers had grown taller and greener than their MSG cousins. Four had come up from seed while two had been purchased at the farmers market. For most of the summer I had thought that the German thyme I had sown next to the basil was a failure, until I realized that what looked similar to the low, scraggly thin-stemmed weeds taking over in my shady perennial beds was the thyme itself.The damage to these herbs was minimal to non-existent, probably because the trees, house, and garage near and around them provided some protection. I picked them in no time. My husband was in a pesto-making mood, so I left the task to him and I curled up under the covers with a book. After all, I was the one who had grown the main ingredients. However, I fell asleep before capturing a photo finish. The container of the green stuff is now in the freezer hanging out with the leftover containers from last year's more bountiful season.At the farmers market I noted that a bunch of basil that looked similar in size to our healthy harvest cost $2. I couldn't find any fresh thyme, but found a package with about the same amount at the supermarket for $2.49. Not enough to close the earnings gap, but anyway:

Previous benefits total: $138.69
1 bunch (estimated) basil at $2/bunch: $2.00
1 package (estimated) fresh thyme at $2.49/package: $2.49
New benefits total: $143.18

Current cost total: $171.57
New balance: -$28.39

Sometimes I wonder: if I had decided against investing in a grow light and bought flats of tomatoes and broccoli instead, would I have reported a profit? Probably, but the point of gardening for me has not been to save money on food--it has been to enjoy and face the challenge of growing better food, get exercise and fresh air, and be part of the gardening community. Besides, I still have a grow light. I don't want it to keep gathering dust until February. Any ideas (aside from cleaning it)?

And don't forget to check out the other harvest posts linked to Daphne's blog, if you'd like.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October

I love these traditions in which I could be lazy on words and let the photos do the talking. It's the 15th of the month, time for the GBBD post, started by May Dream Gardens. To check out the floral treasures from other bloggers, click on their links at the bottom of the MDG post.

Despite a frost two nights ago that nearly killed half my basil, there is still color to be found, not just from the turning leaves. The zinnias at left, growing in my Minton Stable Garden plot, sustained a few battle scars but continue to persevere, but most of my blooms can be found in my gardens at home. One lone daisy remains, as well as a few cosmos that are growing along the sidewalk.
Most of the action can be found at one end of my front yard, where the maiden grass has sprouted red tassels,and these Lady in Black asters, which required extra watering and TLC last season, seem to thrive under the cooler, rainier conditions. The profusion of colorful blossoms is as intense as a fireworks display.Meanwhile, along the side of the house, the other deliberately-planted asters are preparing to call it quits for the season.However, the weed asters are taking over in a few areas, but that's okay. If kept at bay, those along with smartweed are among the most attractive invasives around.In the backyard, a few morning glories remain, but the highlight is the sedum; I am assuming the name of this variety is Autumn Joy because it resembles the one at the end of Daphne's post.More about herbs in the next post, out by Harvest Monday if not sooner.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A slightly more scientific Monday harvest tally

Here we are again on Harvest Monday, and here are my photos of the usual suspects. Had I really thought through this harvest reporting business, I would have raided my friends' seed supplies (to save money) and grown a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. If you finding this bounty rather limited or just simply interested in seeing how other gardeners are doing, you can visit Daphne's post and the participating links. However, there are two new developments in my tally update. First, after weighing and buying more broccoli to supplement my dwindling yield, I reviewed the last several weeks of photos in an effort to make a reasonable estimate, which is a pound. More or less. Also, enough raspberries to fill one of those small containers you get at the supermarket.I had forgotten we had a scale until the other night, when I wanted to weigh some chicken bones to determine how much stock I could make. My husband uses one for his work (trust me, it's all legal), so yesterday I tried to weigh the few green beans I picked. Since the scale is designed for heavier items, the numbers didn't budge. However, two Rose de Berne tomatoes that had reached redness (yet still in a state of punyness) tipped the scale to a whopping .2 pounds. And no signs of blight! Considering the other times I weighed tomatoes at the farmers' market, this seemed about right. So with a little more accuracy I can update my tally as follows:Previous benefits total: $132.00
1 pound (estimated) organic broccoli at $2.50/lb.: $2.50
1 package (estimated) raspberries at $3.59/pkg.: $3.59
.2 pounds of organically grown tomatoes at $3/lb.: $0.60
New benefits total: $138.69

Current costs total: $171.57
New balance: -$32.88

I don't know if I'll have enough basil to close the gap, or, given tonight's falling temperatures, any at all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The silver lining

Rain again. This has been the weather word, the takeaway from this growing season. A few years from now we'll be saying to each other, "Remember that awful summer of 2009?" Hopefully, we won't be saying, "Remember when it all started to go downhill?"

The awful effects of the rainy, cold summer, which seems to have transitioned to a rainy fall, have been numerous. Below-average harvests. Late blight, botrytis, powdery mildew, and other infestations. Plants failing to thrive. A breeding climate for mosquitoes. Lingering seasonal affective disorder. Ruined plans, and the list goes on. As a heavy downpour kept me indoors on Tuesday morning, I decided I had enough doom and gloom, so I considered the positive and started this list, easier now that most of my problems have been cleared away. And today I took some pretty photos of rain on some of my plants outside. I know many of you out there may find this a cruel joke, but there are reasons to like the rain:

1. The rain extended my lettuce harvest. What has been in past seasons a 2-week spell of round-the-clock salads and giveaways lasted about twice as long. I was able to keep some of it in the ground and harvest it as needed, and when it was all over, only a few heads had bolted.
2. Fewer weeds. No invasions of pigweed to slave away over. Not that the gardens were invasive-free--they just didn't take over as much.
3. I wasn't inundated with too many tomatoes that I had to foist upon my friends and family, who would in turn foist theirs upon me.
4. Less sun meant that a slowdown of my skin's aging process. Also money saved on sunscreen and beach parking.
5. With few weeds to pull and vegetables to haul, I had fewer back problems, thus spending less on ibuprofen and reducing my risk of needing physical therapy.
6. How could I almost forget this one? Lower water bills! Not to mention fewer times driving over to the Minton Stable Garden to water, so I reduced my carbon footprint.
7. A chance to see if the waterproof camping equipment lived up to its promise. For the most part, it did.Feel free to add to this list or throw a few blighted tomatoes at me for even suggesting it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday harvest/plot update - The cleanup continues

As expected, my harvest is dwindling in a few areas, particularly my stunted snap peas and my Kentucky Wonder pole beans. The latter aren't crazy about the advance of fall and nighttime temperatures in the 40s; the only beans that didn't turn limp in protest were buried under the plants' leaves. My raspberry plants are still new and few, and that was reflected in the amount of fruit I picked. The amount of broccoli side shoots remains constant, and although I pick only a few every few days, the combination of those and the pole beans have been a sufficient contribution to my small family's balanced diet. To see how other garden bloggers are doing with their harvests, check out the list at the bottom of Daphne's post.

I spent an hour and half at my Minton Stable Garden plot today, primarily pulling out my blighted and finished tomato plants (as you can see in the before and after photos below). Although I've read and heard reports that spores of diseased plants can travel through the air and infect other plants, the plant matter can be composted. Only blighted potato tubers should be disposed of separately, and since I'm not growing any potatoes in the MSG, I'm not concerned. Nevertheless, I bagged up the plants and weeds I pulled today to put out with yard waste at home, since the MSG bins are over capacity and won't be cleared and taken away for several weeks. Other chores I completed included weeding, harvesting, cutting back more of my spent perennials, tying up my raspberry plants to keep them upright and safe from being choked by my pole beans, and clearing strawberry runners from my raspberry patch and other areas of the garden.I still need to figure out how much broccoli I have harvested since my last tally, so I'll just add in the beans:

Previous benefits total: $131.80
1/5 pound (estimated) pole beans: $0.20
New benefits total: $132.00

Current costs total: $171.57
New balance: -$39.57

Short on time this evening. More totals to come in a future post.