Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Grow time to go time!

Striata D'Italia Squash (Baker Creek Heirloom)
A recent photo from a Facebook friend (and actual real life friend at that) reminded me that it's almost time to begin harvesting and preparing food for the shelf. My friend's ecstatic smile went right along with his huge bowl of freshly picked strawberries ready to be turned into jam.

I have been patiently waiting on more than just lettuce and mustard leaves to pull from the garden. Tomatoes are growing by the dozens weekly but it is still way too early to begin harvesting them. Our pepper plants are blossoming in great numbers, carrots are standing tall, and our potatoes are huge! Still, there's been nothing more than greens to harvest from the crop I planted.

Just this past morning, however, I finally saw our first real zucchini growing. This Italian variety (Striata D'Italia Squash) from Baker Creek is looking very promising and its neighbor (Zucchini-Golden) is also bearing a good deal of pinkie-sized edibles.

Stick around -- much more to come!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June update: good ideas, bad ideas, and unexpected fun!

Our first rose
It's been nearly one month since I last wrote anything and so far this year the garden has been predominantly my topic of choice. Since transplanting the tomatoes into the garden on May 7, I have made few changes to the garden itself but many additions.

May 7: The tomatoes were laid out and planted. Although I had to adapt my containers as time progressed (as is shown in this picture), I could not have been more pleased with the growth, especially considering this was my first year at this. I started all of my tomato, pepper, and eggplants from seed on March 1. This might have been a bit too early given the size of the seedlings as early as mid June, but I found a few containers that worked quite well.

Transplant time - the last of these goofy containers
For the tomatoes, while an empty Mussleman's (apple sauce) jar turned out to be a veeeery bad idea, an empty 2 liter pop bottle worked great. The Mussleman's jar had many depressions in the design which kept me from removing the root system and dirt. Plus, the plastic itself was so thick that even my heavy duty kitchen shears were nearly outmatched. The 2 liter bottle was a perfect solution; of course I cut the top off so it was as wide as the outer dimensions. The height of the bottle allowed me to prune the lower nodes of the stem and increase root production early (see earlier posts about transplanting techniques), and the wide mouth made it super easy to remove the root system and drop it straight in the ground. As you can see I also used plastic 44oz big gulp cups. These were not as large as the 2 liter bottles, obviously, but they offered plenty of room for root growth and were a snap when it came time to remove the roots.

The only drawback I found was the transparent nature of the bottle -- roots are delicate and the sunlight can damage them. I remedied this by wrapping the bottles in brown kraft paper which worked well. I could easily label the plants and it protected the roots...it was a win-win I guess!

California Wonder
My pepper plants didn't go outside and officially into a permanent home for another week or two. I didn't record the exact date, but they seemed to get a much slower start than the tomatoes. Looking back I know I did not provide them with enough warmth and that will definitely be a change I make in the future.

Once I did transplant them, however, I decided to experiment by planting them in two different locations: some in the garden and some in 3 gallon pails. The plants in the pails can be to be moved to the sunniest, warmest locations on my property since I'm a bit worried that my garden is too shady for peppers. Also, I took up the majority of the sunny locations with the tomatoes!
Burpee: Corn, on Deck Hybrid

My other interesting container planting is the Corn, on Deck Hybrid sweet corn. I planted this in a 3 gallon pail with approximately 2/3rd garden soil and a 1/3rd mix of horse manure and potting soil. The specs call for about 9 seeds in a 24" container, but I figured my pail was close enough. This little beauty sprouted in just 4-5 days and after one week things are looking promising. This corn should yield about 2-3 ears at 7"-8" per stalk.

With potatoes standing at just over 18" and nice blossoms beginning to pop, onions with tall, rich green shoots, cucumber, yellow and green zucchini, a spaghetti squash seedling that survived its transplant, and quite a nice selection of lettuce coming up, you would think that's just about it for a first timer like me. But I ended up finding more joy and getting a ton of excitement over my mustard plant than anything to this point.

Mustard Plant
The seeds I purchased were just $1 at a local feed store and I think the only reason I was interested in them was due to my intrigue into the parable Jesus teaches about having faith like a mustard seed. Why is this even mentioned in Scripture? Is there something extremely valuable in mustard that I do not know about? Is there an incredible health benefit to mustard? I don't know, so I thought "why not sow some mustard and see what happens?" 

I have already harvested several leaves and to my surprise they are amazing! They offer a great crispness like a good lettuce leaf, and then when you're least expecting it feels like you've just eaten a spoonful of horseradish, only mustard flavored. The leaf I have pictured here to the right I doubled over on a cheeseburger the other night. I guess there's a new saying: once you go mustard you never go back.....er, something like that.

Stay tuned -- lots more to come!