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Monday, October 31, 2011

Eye-POPPING Harvest Monday

This will be a harvest Monday like no other. This will be a three-part Harvest Monday.

We just returned from a two-week vacation in Italy; in which, we left our garden on its own (with drip irrigation). Potential harvest upon our return was yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, and southern peas.

Part I - Italy's Harvest
When we returned from Italy, we had to go grocery shopping and we were so dissapointed. We rented an apartment in Italy, so we had to visit their food markets so we could cook. Well, let me tell you, the variety and freshness of their food markets are superb! They had more variety on one table than we have in our entire produce department! I mean, when is the last time you've seen 3-5 different tomato varieties in our produce department? See for yourself:

The market in Bologna

The Fish Market in Venice

The Market in Rome

Every city had a daily market like this. The grocery stores mainly carried what these fresh markets didn't; like canned food, boxed food, etc. It makes sense that the Italians have to (get to!) shop for food like this because of their limited access to large freezers and pantries. I wish I could shop like this everyday too! Even our weekly farmer's markets don't have this much variety! (and remember, this is mid-October)

Part II - Eye-Popping Home Harvest

So we returned and I couldn't wait to get out to check on the garden. Boy were we shocked! Words can't describe, so I'll let the pictures show you what we saw.

For perspective of what has occurred, I placed a woman's size 8 shoe next to the squash.

 Here's more of the monster squash....all just as big!
 Here's a man's hand at one end of one of the squash!
 I had brought out my harvest basket to collect the goodies....we had to get out the wheel barrow. Here is one of the squash at the end of the wheelbarrow.

Here are all the squash in the wheelbarrow. 22 yellow squash and 12 zucchini. We will cut into these in a few days just to see if any of it is useable, but we aren't counting on being able to use most of it.

Oh and the plants have another crop on them now that is ripening as I type...this will be the last crop because I am pulling them this week, but at least this last crop will be useable.

Part III - Usual Home Harvest
Finally, we did have a modest - yet useable - harvest. Some French Breakfast radish (some was beyond ripe, but some was just fine) and a nice eggplant that weighed just under 1 lb.

Check out other harvests over at Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Mondays.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Back from Vacation

Got back at midnight last night and went straight to bed. Got up at 6 this morning, but had to wait till 7 (for day light) to go check on the garden. We've been gone for two weeks and I was really anxious to see how things were fairing.

We did get a nice harvest, but I will share that in a couple of days....stay tuned...it will be VERY interesting!

As for the garden, before we left, we planted our fall/winter garden. We planted garlic, onion, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, spinach, radish, cauliflower, cabbage, collards. Some stuff was planted 3-weeks before we left and some planted a day before we left. Here are how things look 2 weeks later:

The summer squash had basically taken over.

 The peas had a few pods but not enough to worry about picking them. I may pick some next week for seed stock. They appear healthy, but old. Some even had blooms.

The eggplant looked great. I harvested one. There are five more growing and a handful of blooms. I'll have to give night time protection in a couple of weeks.

 Here's one of my fall beds. The garlic (along the sides) is doing fabulous.You also see collards and radish. The spinach, other collards, and lettuce is too small right now.

 Another fall bed with broccoli and garlic.

I had hoped to see more seedlings after two weeks, but with cooler temps, I guess germination will be slower. We'll see. Next week, I'll exchange the tulle insect netting for clear plastic sheeting.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Inexpensive Row Covers

I have been unsuccessful with brassicas due to cabbage worm infestations. So this time, I decided that I will try something different.

I decided that instead of spraying every 7-14 days, I will install inexpensive row covers before the seedlings emerge and leave the on, the entire growing season.

This row cover cost about $15 to make and it covers a 4' x 8' area. I used 4 - 10' 1/2" PVC poles buried about 6" into the ground (we don't typically freeze here); 10 yards of tulle, and some clothes pins. I weighted down the edges with rocks from the yard and the carpet that I have placed between the rows (the carpet has pastic under it).

What's great about this is that the moths can't get in to lay their eggs! and I can switch out the tulle with some 2 mil or 4 mil plastic sheeting next month to grow throughout the winter (Zone 8a)! I made 3 of these this year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Garlic is Planted

This is my first year planting garlic. I am planting Red Toch, Inchelium Red, Early Red Italian, Rogue River Red, Applegate Giant, and two Grocery Store varieties...one had red streaks and the other was all white.

I first refrigerated most of the cloves for 4 weeks. I stored a few of the cloves in a dark cool place for the four weeks. In the end, I will determine if the refrigerated garlic did better than the non-refrigerated garlic.

Next I soaked the garlic for 24 hours in a solution of 1 gallon of water + 1 T baking soda + 1 T seaweed/fish emulsion. One cup for each variety and fridge treatment.
Next was soaking in rubbing alcohol for 3-4 min immediately before planting and removing the 'skin'.
Finally, plant them..pointed end up!
And about 4 days later.....they have already emerged!
I'll keep you updated on the progress that will hopefully include bulbs next spring!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Picking Purple-Hull Peas

When do you pick a purple hull pea? I've been growing them and I still don't know. But here are some peas at different levels of maturity

The left is the least mature and the right is the most mature (brittle and totally dried). The leftmost pea still has a modest green tint. The 4th pea has the nice cream color. The 5th pea has begun to harden and the last pea is fully hardened.

So my verdict is to pick when the hull is a uniform dark purple.

I won't bore you with another picture of zukes, squash, and peas. But here's this weeks totals (lbs):

Zukes 11.9 --- this is misleading; had a few hidden monsters. I am dissappointed in my zuke production thus far. About a month left though.
Squash 11.64 --- these have really taken off; expect to pull 2-4 per day over the next week.
banana pepper .58 --- will be pulling these next week to make way for carrots
peas 4.93 --- these are at full swing right now; will give some more time before planting brassicas

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall Garden Planted!

Ok so 80% of my fall garden has now been planted. Only the garlic (next week) and onion (in two weeks) remain. I really don't like starting seeds indoors mainly bc I don't like the room they take up, the watering everyday, the messiness, the hardening off, nor the transplanting. Other than that, planting indoors would be wonderful. Luckily, I live in a climate where I can direct sow most seeds. However, I then have the problem of 'losing' the seed or mistaking the seed for weeds. Surely, I can come up with a solution to my problem.

Tissue Rolls! Yes, tissue rolls. I cut them to a length of about 1".

I then set them in the soil, fill them with compost and plant the seed (to the proper depth) inside the tissue roll.

I also did this in my beds that were mulched with mulch laid over newspaper. I just cut a hole in the newpaper, stuck in the tissue roll and surrounded them with mulch.

Tissue rolls are free (well they are) and they will soften and degrade over time. They most likely won't fully decompose over a season, but they will soften enough so that it doesn't prohibit the plants growth. They also have the added benefit where they can be set above soil level....which is great protection against cutworms.