Thursday, September 10, 2015

Early Pre-Autumn Update

The average first frost date range here is October 20-30, less than 8 weeks away! I was able to get another garden frame filled and planted with parsley and lettuce this weekend. The lettuce and parsley were started mid-August after the early August batch was lost while I was on vacation. They have been slowly developing under a canopy of kale that has been going strong all summer.

Based on our current lettuce gap (mid-July to mid-September), let's figure out when I should have started more lettuce:

  • The first batch was planted about March 23 and the first harvest was May 16 (~60 days).
  • That lettuce continued to produce until mid-July when it began to go to seed (~60 days)
  • I have been without garden lettuce for six weeks and don't expect to be able to pick from the current planting until the end of September (~60 days)

If I had started a batch of lettuce at the same time each month through July, I would have had a more steady supply of lettuce, and since there is overlap, would be able to reduce the amount that is planted after the first planting.

Next year, let's try starting with 32 plants (8 square feet) and then 16 additional (4 square feet) each month until July when we replace the original 8 squares with new lettuce which will provide into the heart of winter (now scheduled on my Gmail Calendar). Alternatively, I could start another planting every other month. Note: The trick to having lettuce all summer is to provide mid-day shade in July and August when the sun and heat are most intense and to keep it watered well, otherwise it will quickly go to seed.

The last tomato was picked yesterday from the container tomatoes that first began showing signs of blight about 8 weeks ago. The tomatoes in the 4x4 frame just started providing ripe fruit and should continue up until first frost. We have been adding volunteer purslane to our salads and green juicing. It is a "rich source of omega-3's", among other things.

We also picked about 2.5 gallons of apples from our Gala and Braeburn apple trees. There will be many more to come as most of the apples were not yet ripe. The pears, plums, peach, grapes and blueberries did not produce this year, but we have been picking a cup or two of raspberries almost everyday. I am planning to put a fence around most of the fruit next year to keep the deer away.

In the kitchen, we grew some sunflower and wheatgrass sprouts. One tray of either fills a 2 quart container.

As a final note, I finally fixed all of the garden frames that were damaged by the heavy snows last winter. This winter, they will be protected by hoops.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Late August Update

This past weekend, we made another quart of pesto. The basil has been the success story of the year, three cuttings and probably one more (for a total of about a gallon of pesto for the year). The beets and carrots have not matured wonderfully, probably due to insufficient sun in the back row, but the beets are tasty.

I also found some time this weekend to repair garden frame protectors, I have been trying to get to that all season... The choi planted at the beginning of August is beginning to mature. We have some lettuce, parsley and chard planted mid-august that will need to be transplanted this weekend. We have harvested four of twelve tomatoes from the blighted tomato plants. I have been picking off the affected leaves, but the blight is beginning to take over the entire plant. About four of the eight remaining tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

Another compost tower was placed in the asparagus patch. It will be interesting to see if this gets processed faster since there are likely more earthworms there than in the raised beds. I like that this tower has an opening that is about six inches square (the first is only four inches square). It is easier to dump scraps into this one without spilling.

The gala apple tree in the Southtowns is very full and beginning to drop fruit. We will harvest some this weekend.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Garden frame review

Frame 1: The kale planted this spring is still going strong. The lettuce started bolting a couple of weeks ago and was removed.

Frame 2: I have been harvesting parsley from this frame since the lettuce was harvested. Soon we will be picking beets.

Frame 3: More beets and carrots coming along.

Frame 4: This frame is filled with four tomato plants that I bought from the Co-op in May or June. These plants look very healthy and have lots of fruit.

Container 1: These two plants were attacked by blight. I have one tomato turning red and a dozen more that will be soon.

Fall garden: I have a tray of pac choi, lettuce, kale, and chard ready to be planted.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Composting tower

I have been looking for a composting solution for some time. We have to be careful near the city because of the presence of rats, so it has to be an enclosed system that they cannot easily access. Then I saw the composting worm tower at and was intrigued.

The idea is that food scraps are placed in the tower which extends below soil level where worms can easily gain access. I had looked at worm based composting previously, but it sounded like it would be a hassle to maintain the correct environment for the worms to survive and reproduce. The advantage of this system is that the they can come and go from the tower at will and in doing so they will distribute their castings around the garden. So ideally, one places food scraps in the tower and the worms do the work of spreading it around the garden, so one never needs to think about the scraps after dropping them in the tower. Another big plus is that it is built with natural materials.

So, I built one with a 1x6 cedar plank that I bought for $12 from Home Depot and I also built one out of pine ($6). Over time, I will compare the difference in longevity of the different woods. Having one of these towers in each garden frame, will also provide a convenient place to recycle soil-laden roots from harvested veggies and weeds.