Monday, May 31, 2010

Harvest Mondays: Spinach & Garlic Chive Pesto

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Mondays” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from their gardens in different areas.

The warm weather we experienced last week caused most of the spring planting of spinach to bolt:



I harvested what I could and pulled the bolted plants:



There are still a few spinach plants remaining in the garden that didn’t look like they were bolting yet. I hope they hang on for a little while longer.

I used some of the spinach to make a spinach and garlic chive pesto. Here is a rough recipe although I didn’t really measure anything:

Quick Spinach & Garlic Pesto

Ingredients:
1/2 cup garlic chives
1 cup fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 basil leaves
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Place the garlic chives, parsley, spinach, and garlic in a blender or food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Add olive oil and cheese, and process until blended.



I sautéed the shrimp with a little bit of the pesto, and served over whole wheat linguini:



It was a quick meal and I was pleased with the fresh flavor of the spinach in the pesto:



Other harvests this week have included daily salads from lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard clippings:



Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hazy Sky and the Smell of Smoke


We woke this morning to a hazy sky and the smell of smoke. I was alarmed and went outside to see if there was a fire nearby. It was very windy and we haven’t had any rain for over a week. It wouldn’t take much for a fire to race through the woods that surround our home. I couldn’t see anything, so I went inside and jumped on the internet to see if any news of a fire in my area had been reported.

Turns out the smoky haze and smell was coming from dozens of forest fires in Quebec, Canada: “Winds hamper efforts to battle Quebec fires”.

My heart goes out to all those affected by the fires and hope that they are under control soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oh, It has Been HOT the Last Few Days!

I guess I picked a great vacation week.

80s-90s in May in Maine is quite uncommon. Mid-60s is normal for us this time of year. The past 3-days it was hot! Today temperatures reached 90 and I found it almost impossible to work outside in the garden. We were sweltering and had to put in a few window air conditioners in for general comfort. By 7 pm Wednesday evening, everything changed. The wind shifted, the sky became slightly overcast, and the temperatures dropped down to mid-50s as the sun went down.

Tomorrow is predicted to be much more comfortable and I am looking forward to planting out my tomato, pepper, melon, cucumber, basil, and eggplant seedlings over the next couple of days. The seedlings have been hardening off the last week or so, I think they are ready to be on their own in the garden.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Garden Spot Photo Updates

The weather has been absolutely wonderful the past few days and the rest of the week is looking good as well:


The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, cucumber, and basil are outside hardening off now and it looks like later in the week will be perfect weather to plant them out. Here is a picture of the cucumbers, basil and Charantais Melons under the shade of a tree. The Charantais are less advanced in growth than the Fast Break Melons and Sugar Baby Watermelons. I do hope they catch up a bit:



Some gardening chores were completed early this morning. It is supposed to reach 90 degrees later today and I don't like working in the heat. Pole Beans were seeded, garden paths were weed whacked, some potatoes hilled, and the beds were given a good watering.

Here are a few updated pictures from around the garden spot:

Broccoli seems to be growing well in the Self Watering Container under the row cover:





The celery also seems to be doing well in the Self Watering Containers:




Garlic bed:



Lettuce in the SFG. I am enjoying daily salads:



The spinach is beginning to bolt, so I am harvesting as much as I can for salads and pulling the plants as they bolt. Basil will be planted in its place.



The onions are doing much better since I mulched them with dried lawn clippings to help retain moisture in the soil:



When I planted pea pods along these trellises, I thought they would be finished before the tomatoes were planted. I'm not sure what I was thinking. They are growing well, but haven't bloomed yet. I may have to pull them before they have time to produce anything or try to plant the tomatoes in front of them:



I don't think my carrots germinated well. Although it is hard for me to tell because they are still so tiny. This is one of the largest so far and the only one with true leaves:



This is my first time growing Swiss Chard and it seems to be putting on some good growth now:



The potatoes are growing like crazy and I am hilling them a little bit every day depending on their individual growth. I don't like how messy looking the potato patch is though:



Blueberries are in full bloom:



One good thing about all the rain we had last year seems to be the increase of raspberry and blackberry canes in the patch behind the shed. Many are beginning to bloom so hopefully we will have some berries this year. I don't know if this is a raspberry or blackberry bloom:




I am hoping to finish building new Self Watering Containers for the tomato plants today. This will be completed in the basement where it is nice and cool. Tonight, K returns from his movie shoot.  Then we can enjoy the rest of the week together until I have to return to work next Tuesday. Boy, I have missed him.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Preparing the Melon Patch

I’ve been waiting for a relatively calm day to prepare the melon patch. Laying solar mulch is difficult enough, but attempting to do so when it is windy is almost impossible. Yesterday seemed like a good day to attempt it.

I began by pulling the weeds and grass that were encroaching in the plot. Then pulled out my Mantis cultivator to till fluff up the soil:



The soil was raked smooth and 2.5 foot wide planting rows and smaller paths were plotted out. The paths in between were tamped down with my feet giving me solid footing to walk in between the planting rows. Each planting row was sprinkled with Plant-tone fertilizer and raked in. More fertilizer will be added to the planting holes when the transplants are placed in the ground.

Soaker hoses were laid out on the planting rows:




The solar mulch was carefully measured and laid over the bed and temporarily held down with rocks, wood, shovels, and anything that was handy. Then the edges buried with soil:




Over the next couple weeks, this plot will house Sugar Baby Watermelons, Charantais Melons, Fast Break Melons, and a row of Early Girl Tomatoes at the north end.

The plot will be pretty densely planted and will be a tangle of vines by August. The most difficult part will be making sure the vines stay in the garden. Here is a picture of the 2009 melon patch:



Overall, I had good results with melons grown on solar mulch last year considering the abnormal rain and colder temperatures we experienced. Last year, the transplants were planted the last week of May, but sulked and didn’t begin growing until warm weather finally hit in July. Even though they lost about a month of maturing time in a growing season that is short to begin with, I still had a melon harvest of about 17 melons from 8 plants. There were many fruits on the vines that just didn’t have time to mature before first frost.

Hopefully, last summer’s weather was a fluke and this summer will be more normal temperatures. This year, my melon transplants are looking much healthier this year than last year too:




I will begin hardening these off in the next few days.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reaping the Rewards of Composting

I have had a compost pile for years, but it wasn’t until a year ago that I vowed to compost more household waste. I must admit, I don’t turn my compost pile as often as I should. The only time it gets stirred up is probably once a year as I dig down to the bottom to rob whatever can be used in the garden. The rest of the year, household waste is pretty much just tossed in and piled on top.

Last year, I wanted to construct a new compost bin, then layer in the contents of this bin with leaves and other “browns” so that it would heat up and finish quicker. I never found the time to building the new bins. Maybe this year.

Luckily, compost happens with or without our help. My intention yesterday morning was to stir up the compost bin a bit and maybe find a little usable finished compost to top off some of the new square foot garden beds that had settled since filling.

I made a crude sifter out of some old hardware cloth and a couple of scrap 2x3s. Then I began digging:



A couple shovelfuls were placed on the sifter and worked through using a hand trowel:




It didn’t take long to accumulate a wheelbarrow full of beautiful, sifted compost:




There was more than enough to spread among the new square foot gardens and mix in:



I think I can scavenge another wheelbarrow full of finished compost from the bin. In the process I am stirring up the compost pile and breaking up larger clumps, so maybe by fall I will have more.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taking Inventory and Adjusting the Garden Plan

The morning began quietly with just the sounds of the birds. While waiting for the sun rise and dry the morning dew, I worked with the seedlings.

The tomatoes were brought outside to great the sun when it emerged from behind trees. I began hardening the tomatoes off last weekend and now they are ready for a full day of sun. I will monitor them during the day to be sure they are well watered and are not suffering from too much sunshine, heat or wind.



The tomatoes have doubled in size since they began spending their time in the sun during the day. It is amazing to me to see how fast they are growing.

The peppers and eggplant will also spend a few morning hours in a shady spot outside today for the first time:



In the two photos below are Anaheim, California Bell, and Cayenne:




Missing from the pepper group are the Jalapeno peppers. These were extremely slow to germinate. I potted them up this morning and they are still under the lights for a few more days. There are still several weeks before their planting time, so hopefully they will be ok by then.

It is my first time growing Japanese Eggplant and I was surprised to see thorns on the stems and leaves:




It was a good opportunity to count up the plants and jot down their numbers so I can adjust my garden plan based on the transplants available. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Preparing for the Pole Beans

Last weekend K helped me put up the pole bean trellises. I used nylon netting last year and was amazed that it was strong enough to hold the heavy vines. Here are some pics of the 2009 pole beans:






Unfortunately, the nylon netting proved difficult to clean off the expired bean plants in the fall, I ended up trashing most of it out of frustration. Turns out it was not strong enough to reuse anyway as I discovered earlier this spring that it had become brittle and snapped at the slightest pressure.

We used wire fencing for the bean trellis this year. With care, this fencing can be reused for many years to come:




The pole bean section is at north end of the same plot that the potatoes are planted.

I formed my “rows” for the beans last week beneath the trellises. Today I wove a soaker hose along the rows:






Then covered the area with solar mulch to keep the weeds down and help warm the soil:




Luckily, it rained yesterday so the bed is watered and ready for it’s blanket. Solar mulch also helps keep moisture in the soil. There is just enough room between the potatoes and beans for a row of 4 tomatoes. So I placed the cages here to help secure the solar mulch. The tomatoes will be planted in the next couple of weeks.

Each trellis will be seeded in the next few days with a double row of pole beans. Kentucky Wonder on one trellis and Purple Trionfo Violetto on the other. I grow Kentucky Wonder every year, but this is my first year with Purple Trionfo Violetto. This is also my first year relying completely on pole beans to supply my beans for fresh eating and canning. I usually have several similar sized rows of bush beans as well but gave up this space for other crops. We still have a large supply of canned beans from last year in the pantry, but will the harvest this year supply us with enough to carry us through the following year? We will see.