Monday, November 23, 2009

Harvest Monday and reflecting on the broccoli crop

It's harvest Monday, and two weeks since I reported on mine and linked with the others at Daphne's blog. Late November is officially here and I'm pleased that there is still a broccoli harvest to report. Here is what I picked last Thursday, though the side shoots are getting smaller and smaller. I filled a 9-ounce cup, and for dinner later I stirred some into some leftover chicken soup. Just reheating the soup for a few minutes cooked the broccoli to the right texture. I haven't been to the Minton Stable Garden since then; I hope to make it today. I need to cut back the raspberries, which are done producing desirable fruit, and may be able to pinch off a few more sideshoots, though some are starting to produce yellow flowers, a signal that the end is near.Along with the pole beans and romaine lettuce, the Fiesta organic broccoli seeds (from Fedco) I had sown back in March have grown into my most successful crop of the season. This was likely due to several factors: 1) the sunny location in the Minton Stable Garden (the ones in my back yard failed to produce), 2) the well-drained soil with added compost, and 3) the cooler-than-average conditions prevented the plants from bolting sooner. Starting and planting them out at the right time, and using a potting medium with fertilizer also played a role, of course.

This morning I poked around online to determine what I could do next year to improve my broccoli growing practices. Some sites, including this one, stressed that crops should be rotated every few years to avoid diseases, and instructed me to cut stems at an angle when harvesting. I had done the quickest thing by snapping off sideshoots with my bare hand, which probably wasn't such a big deal, but had I cut off the initial heads at an angle I may have been able to avoid this. Leaving a flat stump allowed rainwater to pool up and cause rot, though it didn't harm the whole plant and I was still able to harvest side shoots. Broccoli roots tend to be shallow, so mounding soil around the base of the plant may help. One of my plants became uprooted and died, but I didn't bother to check for clubroot, which could have also been a culprit.

I'll definitely grow it again next year, and perhaps try some Romanesco or Broccoli Raab for more variety. I may also save the seeds of what I have grown, also highly recommended. I'd be curious to find out what other gardeners took away from their growing experience this season.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Last work day

What a wild weather weekend as usual...another work day postponed as 1-2 inches of rain soaked the Boston area yesterday. Certainly not ideal conditions for hauling compost. Today's temperatures in the 60s made up for it, that is, if one doesn't worry about whether or not the neighborhood will be underwater in a few years from all these possible effects of global warming.Having finished up my work requirement earlier in the season and experiencing some back problems, I chose not to participate, but I stopped over at the Minton Stable Garden to harvest more broccoli sideshoots (see above) and see how the work was progressing. John, who along with Todd from the Steering Committee was running the work day, filled me in on who managed to show up to finish up their hours. They had finished loading this truck, but because Apple D'Or Tree, the composting business and destination for our yard waste, is closed on Sunday, it will spend the night here. Hopefully the tires won't sink deeper in the mud overnight. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to compost all our waste on site because it doesn't get hot enough in our receptacles for it to break down. Although Apple D'Or is nearby and not expensive, what to do about our composting still remains an issue; a few people on the Steering Committee are interested in developing a workable on-site system.After I picked the broccoli I also noticed that the garlic I planted a few weeks ago is coming up.As I lingered to take photos of the garden Ralph and Karla showed up to begin the next phase of their work contribution: fitting the shed with hooks and other fixtures so our tools and supplies can be stored efficiently. Ralph is a woodworker and Karla designs cabinetry configurations (the Steering Committee was duly impressed with her blueprints), so the project is in good hands. There had been a bit of complaining among us about tools being left around the garden and difficulty maneuvering around the shed to retrieve needed items. These improvements will give items their proper place and free up some more space for storage.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Harvest update; the indoor season begins

First, a harvest update; better late than never, I suppose. These last few days we've been enjoying sunshine and temperatures in the sixties. Not only has the weather extended the harvest, but has coaxed my first season raspberry plants to continue producing new berries. Only one of my four plants has quit, leaving pea-sized dried-up remains. Fortunately for me, the other fruits have retained their sweet flavor, which is not always guaranteed to happen this late in the season (the berries in the communal patch at the Minton Stable Garden taste bland and are lacking in juiciness in comparison).Now for some not-so-scientific estimates of the value of my harvest (for more impressive numbers and other gardeners' harvest updates visit Daphne's blog). Based on all of the nearly identical photos I've taken since my last tally, I've yielded the following:

Previous benefits total: $143.18
1/2 pound (estimated) organic broccoli at $2.50/lb.: $1.25
1 package (estimated) raspberries at $3.59: $3.59
New benefits total: $148.02

Current cost total: $171.57
New balance: -$23.55
I have this nifty grow light that has put me in the red this season, so I may as well keep using it. Under a layer of leaves in containers out back, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few German thyme plants still thriving and new parsley rising up over the stumps of what my husband had picked and used in pesto. I potted them in containers I could bring indoors, and plan to keep them alive for as long as I can under the grow light. I placed another thyme plant under a kitchen window; we'll see which fares better. I would like to start some rosemary from seed, maybe some other herbs, as well as lettuce. In a comment she made earlier to my blog Emily mentioned that she was going to sow an indoor garden, and since I still have soil, light, and lettuce seeds, why not?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brief harvest Monday and plot update

It's been two weeks since I posted a harvest update. To my surprise, there continues to be a yield about which to report, and the list of Harvest Monday participants over at Daphne's Dandelions is growing again. Thanks to an amendment to the Minton Stable Garden rule that states that plots must be winterized by November 1, plants that are still producing can stay in the ground. In my case, it's still the broccoli sending out sideshoots (a nice addition to last night's stir fry) and a few more raspberries. I think by the end of next week I'll have enough raspberries to fill a package and add that information to my tally. After I filled my tiny baggie with the goodies I snapped a few photos to show off the compliance of most MSG gardeners. Luckily nasturtiums count as edibles and add some color.Tomorrow's a busy day, and I have to squeeze voting in there somewhere. We'll see which man--Menino or Flaherty (with Yoon)--will be at the podium at next year's Gardener's Gathering. Whoever it is, I hope he keeps the free compost coming.