Monday, January 31, 2011

Harvest Monday: January 31, 2011

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

It has been a while since I have been able to post a harvest for “Harvest Mondays.” Although the garden is still under a few feet of snow, the greens growing under the lights in the basement were ready for their first harvest this weekend:




Onion Trimmings

We had enough for a couple salads, which tasted so good and fresh.

I also made turkey soup this week using turkey stock, leftover meat and preserved garden vegetables from the freezer:

Turkey Soup

Garden grown vegetables used in the soup included carrots, onions, celery, spinach, and pea pods. Dried oregano and thyme from the garden and fresh parsley and rosemary from the plants growing on the windowsill were also used. Unfortunately, I am running low on preserved garden bounty but have adjusted the amounts grown for the upcoming 2011 growing season.

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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And More Snow Fell

We experienced another winter storm here in New England on Friday that added another six inches to the snow already on the ground.

My 2.5-foot garden fence is completely covered now:

Temperatures are predicted to be quite cold over the weekend with nights below 0˚F. This is the longest stretch of winter for us here in Maine. I feel I am just waiting during this time….waiting for daylight to noticeably increase, waiting for the temperatures to warm, waiting for the snow to melt, waiting for the ground to thaw, and waiting for signs of spring.

In the mean time, here are some things growing under lights in the basement:

Lettuce just about ready for the first harvest.

One year old onion seeds growing quite well.

Spinach forming their secondary leaves.

Mostly Arugula germinated from some old Mesclun seeds tested.

Sage seedling.

A few more sage seedlings.

These are keeping me focused on spring which is certain to follow eventually.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wicked Nor'easter

The snow was predicted to begin during the morning commute. In anticipation of the storm, many schools and businesses decided last night to remain closed today. I consider myself so lucky that can work from home as long as I have electricity. Once I woke up and saw the snow falling, I settled myself in front of the computer with a cup of coffee and began my workday.

By lunchtime, about 9-inches had fallen and K went out to snowblow a bit so it wouldn’t be too deep for our snowthrower.

Snow on the Apple Trees

By mid-morning, Maine Department of Transportation was advising people to stay off the roads because they could not keep up with 3-inches per hour snowfall. We live in a rural area and didn’t even see a plow on our road until around 2 pm.

There IS a garden under there.

By nightfall, at least 14-inches had fallen. The storm is expected to slow overnight, but he wind has picked up causing the snow to swirl into drifts. There will be one more cleanup tomorrow morning before I venture out to work once again.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 Garden Planning

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.
To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.”
~Alfred Austin

I was able to sit down yesterday and plan out the garden and develop my seed-starting schedule for this year. Last year was my first year growing from seed under lights. Last year was also my most successful garden ever.

In the years previous to last, I purchased transplants and direct seeded the garden. Purchased transplants usually required a short hardening off period and seedling transplant all at once into the garden. Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend was the time to “get the garden in.” It always felt rushed and the seedlings almost always showed signs of living too long in their little cell packs.

Over the past few years I have improved the garden spot with the addition of six, 4x4 Square Foot Garden beds and utilized black plastic mulch to help increase heat and keep the weeds under control in the regular garden. I have also used home made self-watering containers to successfully increase production beyond the actual garden space.

Growing from seed gave me opportunity to take pleasure in a little gardening during the long winter months. I watched as life emerged from the tiny seeds and flourished into healthy seedlings. I enjoyed caring for the seedlings as they grew. Even when it was time to transplant the seedlings into the garden, it was completed at a much slower pace over a longer period of time. When the weather, seedlings and gardener were ready, not when it was time to “get the garden in.”

Planning a seed-starting schedule for the first time last year was a bit daunting. This year seemed much easier as I just took the existing schedule and tweaked it according to my notes and observations. First I plotted out the garden spot to see how many seedlings to plan on, and then developed the schedule knowing that I would probably modify it as I went along.

Some of the changes for this year:
  • Double the amount of onions: Last year’s crop was enough to use in canning salsa and tomato sauce, but not enough for storing.
  • Reduce the amount of tomatoes: We are not big tomato eaters, but I do make a lot of tomato sauce and salsa. I will keep the same amount of paste tomato plants as last year, but reduce the eating tomatoes to only a few plants.
  • Start pepper seeds earlier: The peppers germinated much slower that anticipated last year. I plan on starting them two weeks earlier this year.
  • Increase the amount of greens: In both variety and amount.
  • Reduce the amount of cucumbers: We had way more cucumbers than we needed last year. Even after making two batches of pickles and giving away the extras, the amount of fruit produced was above and beyond what could be used.
  • Reduce the amount of melons: I’ve grown melons for the past two years, this year I want to utilize the melon space other things. I almost eliminated melons completely this year, but then found a spot for a few plants. I will be growing a small yellow watermelon in a square foot garden on a trellis.
  • Add some winter squash: I have tried growing winter squash before with only minimal success. I believe the black plastic mulch method will increase yields.
  • Experiment with growing potatoes: I am toying with trying another method of growing potatoes after seeing the success Laura had at The Modern Victory Garden using the John Jeavon's Potato Planting Method.  Although I had a very successful first year at growing potatoes, I disliked the hilling method because of the labor involved in hilling, the unkempt and messy appearance of the plot, and the wasted space in between the rows.
My seed box has been sorted and organized. I tested and planted some older seeds and eliminated the duds. I will be placing a small seed order at Pinetree Garden Seeds this week. There will be some new varieties to try. I am ready and eager to begin the new gardening season.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Testing Some Seeds and Getting Ready to Plan the 2011 Garden

The holidays are such a busy time for most of us. This year was no exception. I am looking forward to a slower pace so that I can sit down and begin planning the garden for 2011. I miss watching things grow, tending to the garden, and eating fresh veggies.

Earlier in December, I set up my seed growing area and planted some seeds under the lights. I wanted to test the viability of some older seeds and I was hoping to grow some lettuce, spinach, and some herbs for a few fresh greens. They sprouted and are growing:





Onion seeds are usually viable for only one year. I hate to waste seeds, so I am testing my one-year-old onion seeds using moistened paper towels in zipper bag.

Onion Seeds on Wet Paper Towel

This paper towel method can be used to test germination of most seeds:
  • Moisten a paper towel.
  • Squeeze to remove excess water.
  • Place 10 seeds on the wet towel.
  • Fold towel in half over seeds.
  • Press down to make sure seeds touch the moistened paper towel.
  • Place the paper towel and seeds in a zipper bag and seal it.
  • Place the zipper bag in a warm place.
  • Check to see if the seeds have sprouted each day, re-moisten paper towel if it dries out.
  • Count the seeds that sprouted and calculate the percentage that sprouted out of the total tested. Example: if 9 out of 10 seeds sprout, you have 90% germination rate.

If the germination is greater than 5 sprouted seeds (50% percent) I will use them knowing that I will have to sow a little heavier to make of for the reduced viability. I also want to observe seedlings as they grow. If they are not healthy looking, I will throw them out and buy a fresh package of seeds. I want my seedlings to have the best shot at success.

Seeds that do germinate can be planted. Just be sure to not tear the tender roots. If the root has grown into the paper towel, I just tear carefully around it and plant it paper towel and all.

The garden planning has begun. There are many seed catalogs arriving in the mail lately. Some from companies that I have never heard of and probably won’t order from, but it is fun to flip through the pages. I am also looking forward to reading about your 2011 garden plans.