Wednesday, December 29, 2021

December's Garden (2021)

This past month has been extremely busy due to big changes.  Dustin accepted a job in Chattanooga which is a 2 1/2 hour drive away and has moved out.  He will obviously not be eating here daily so my garden plans have changed...again.  To avoid waste, I have been sharing freely and focusing on harvesting the varieties that can't handle the bitter cold. 

Gifts for friends

Empty spots are appearing so raked leaves from the big oak tree in the front yard are being spread over the garden.

All of the radishes which were growing between the corn stalk roots at the base of the one remaining support fence have been harvested. A few were beginning to rot so it was time to move them to the refrigerator. There might be other ways to store them but there is plenty of room in my fridge - Dustin took all of the food.

Garlic bulbs were squeezed between the radish roots last month and they have already begun to sprout.  Come spring, onion bulbs will be added, and then later something vining will be planted to grow up the fence. 

One hoop house has been taken down and the other one at the far end of this row will come down in a few days. These were the mixed plants from the saved assorted unknown seeds which had been broadcast during the late summer. Most were finished producing. That still leaves me with 12 hoop houses.

Right now the cool weather crops are being harvested. Tsa Tsai is a mustard green that has a round bulb at the base of the stem which can be eaten along with the leaves. When grown last spring, it had a stronger flavor but became milder in the cooler weather.  However, even though it is not extremely spicy, we still don't like it and are giving it to mustard-loving friends. This is the last time it will be grown.  The stems and bulbs have begun to split from the freezing weather.

Anything with a thick stem like bok choy or napa cabbages won't last much longer.

My preference is for variety so I plant a couple of everything. It is how I manage to grow so many different vegetables. At last count, I have seeds for over 20 varieties of Chinese greens alone. That doesn't count the saved seeds which have produced crossed surprises. Buying seeds is my weakness. Two or three of whatever happens to germinate is planted each season and that keeps my meal choices interesting. 

Seeds for this red hybrid cabbage were purchased a few years ago but haven't been for sale since. It is rare for me to buy a hybrid because I can't save the seeds; however, I couldn't resist its color. This fall only one sprouted so the leaves have been used to garnish salads. It turns black when cooked which might be why it isn't sold anymore. It can get much bigger if not snipped constantly.

Katsuona is another of the unusual vegetables in my garden.

Its leaves have gotten frost burn where they touched the top of the hoop house.  It won't survive much longer either. 

Napa cabbages never live long. They grow fast then either freeze in the winter or bolt in the summer.  These are Chirimen Hakusai Napa Cabbages. There are only two, but it is enough. Next season, a few more seeds will be planted until they no longer germinate. This seed packet has lasted for years.

Golden Beauty Napa Cabbage has been a wonderful discovery and has become one of Bill's favorite salad greens. The flavor is mild and delicious.  

It is green when picked but as the outer leaves are removed, the inner leaves are a pale yellow.  

They are not being shared (Bill's favorite) but are being picked as fast as we can eat them.  They don't seem able to handle temperatures below the '30s because their outer leaves freeze and rot.  Even with the protection of a hoop house, they suffer. This is how they look now, pretty rough. The slimy outer leaves have been removed to avoid attracting slugs. 

Last month's disastrous broccoli/lettuce/collard bed is still a disaster.  The experiment to find a nontoxic poison (nontoxic to humans but lethal to ants) continues.  I dug out the huge ant mound because it had killed most of the plants in the middle area. 

The back part of the bed is in better shape.

Most of the Landis Winter lettuce didn't survive my excavations but what few did, seem to be past their prime. There is a later sprouting one in another part of the garden and it is doing much better.  Planting times should have been staggered. It seems I must figure out when to plant them in my zone so they will make it through my winter.

The assorted broccoli and Cascade Glaze Collards will be harvested deep in the winter after the less hardy vegetables are gone.

There was a surprise in the back area of the garden in front of the shed.  Last fall (2020), a potato was planted to see if a second crop was possible in my 7a garden zone - it isn't - everything died in the winter. However, this past spring (2021) one potato left in the soil sprouted and grew under the okra plants producing these potatoes. They were discovered when we were spreading the horse manure.

Now I am wondering if this area would be best for growing potatoes.  Perhaps the shade will keep them from dying in the summer heat so they can produce more.  I don't know but the plan right now is to put potatoes in the back of the garden. 

The cool weather crops will soon be gone and we will begin harvesting hardier cold weather vegetables.  Our diets will once again completely change.  Change - it seems to be the only thing constant in my life right now.

Monday, November 29, 2021

November's Garden (2021)


I have fourteen. 

Fourteen hoop houses. Last year I had ten. I don't know how that happened. Every time I heard a news report about the price of food rising, I planted a few more seeds. 

I ran out of row cover fabric and began stitching old pieces together but it wasn't enough. With freezing weather fast approaching, I purchased two of these covers from Amazon. 

The original plan was to cut them in half and cover four hoop houses individually. But instead, I left them whole after seeing how thin they are. 

We didn't even trim the length of the second cover, just rolled it under on the end because they were beginning to rip. It is doubtful if they will last more than one year.

They also hold moisture underneath and on the top which I fear may cause disease. The other houses dry quickly.  It may work out fine but as of now, I am not recommending this product.

As for the plants, the garden is a sea of green.  

It looks like too much food but winter gardens are much different than summer gardens.  They do all of their growing in the fall, and then go dormant through the winter.  

The horse manure has made a big difference in the health of everything so they are larger than ever.

The radishes under the fence row that were planted between the corn roots are getting quite large. A few winter celtuce were also squeezed in the few bare spots. They were from saved seeds from Green Mountain Winter Celtuce plants that made it through my winter a few years ago. They were always out in the open so this row won't be covered. The radishes won't make it to the end of winter no matter what I do.

Every year I purchase something new in addition to saved seeds. The new Pusa Guiabi Radish is going to be a keeper. The leaves are better than other varieties, more leaf, less stem, and could be used in fresh salads when small.

This row needed harvesting because what I thought were Sui Choy Napa Cabbages began bolting. Either the seed company or I got them swapped. They are in the middle of this row and are so tall the leaves are pushing up on the roof of the hoop house. They have started overshadowing the Golden Beauty Chinese Cabbages on the edges. Both varieties are new to me. 

Whatever the new plants are, we liked their flavor anyway (stirfried with onion, butternut squash, and leftover Thanksgiving turkey). Two were harvested and this is the big gap left in the row.  The mixup doesn't bother me - it just adds to the excitement of trying new things.

The Golden Beauty Cabbage looks exactly like the picture in the seed catalog so no problems there. None have been picked yet.

This is the row shown last month when I harvested the mature Tokinashi and Hida Beni Japanese turnips to make room for the Thousand Head Kale. The smaller turnip seedlings were left to continue growing but some began splitting. I don't know if they are winter hardy so all were harvested.  

Thousand Head Kale is supposed to get massive. The plan was to harvest the turnips so the kale could slowly grow over the winter and when it warms in the spring, remove the covers and let them expand.  However, they look spindly.  This bed did not receive much manure last year because perennial onions were in this spot. The soil is still like a rock which is how my whole garden used to be.  Manure will be spread under the mulch this winter and hopefully, it will make a difference before spring.

This is the bed I was excited about last month because it has assorted broccoli with Landis Winter Lettuce underneath.  The middle section has only lettuce and the back has Cascade Glaze Collards.  The broccoli leaves have grown so thick that the lettuce underneath is in the shade.  Some of the leaves have been harvested, (boiled in beef broth and the stems shredded into broccoli coleslaw) and in the process, something horrible was revealed.

A massive fire ant colony has built a huge mound and it is covering the lettuce.  I didn't even know it was there until I removed some of the broccoli leaves.  It is frustrating to constantly fight them. My experiments using different nontoxic home remedies are continuing.

The garden and I are ready for winter. All that is needed is to raise the edge of one cover, harvest enough for a few days, and then return to the warm house.  It has been worth all the work. Now I can rest for a while.  When I look out of the window after hearing the worsening news reports, I feel much safer. We have plenty of food growing.