Giving thanks for the garden

Thanksgiving morning I went out early into the garden for a few final herbs for the turkey stuffing, and a warm rain misted my face. I zipped open the cloche to send the breeze through the salad greens, ready for picking.

Cloched salad greens

Bronze oak leaf lettuce, black-seeded Simpson lettuce, spinach and arugula are cozy under a sturdy plastic cloche.

Over at the cold frame, which is bursting with more salad, the soil thermometer read 52 degrees. The tiny Cascadia peas in the back, which I intended to overwinter for next spring, are flowering.

cold frame salad greens

Green deer tongue lettuce, Forellenschluss lettuce and bok choi are the three main crops in the cold frame.

And I took the plunge into the chillier (45 degree) wet soil under the floating row cover to grab some carrots, yellow and orange.

Winter carrots

Chablis yellow carrots and an old standard orange Nantes carrots are sweet and crisp under floating row cover.

I took a tour around the yard to see how the other veggies are faring under my various season extension devices. Found the small Siberian kale (which, in defiance of its name, had been floundering on its own) was looking pretty perky under a row of three “hot caps”: a plastic dome and two dirty yet effective glass bells.

Hot caps

Blue Siberian curly kale under plastic and glass hot caps.

Finally, the dino kale, which did not get the nod as part of the Thanksgiving feast, impressed me as usual with its rich bluish color and bushy sprouting of dark new leaves.

Dino kale

Lacinato “dinosaur” kale standing tall in a bed mulched with straw.

Seeing all the greenery, basking in a warm mid-’50s breeze on a day that was to reach nearly 60, clearly there was a lot to be thankful for.

The rain didn’t dampen my mood as I chopped the herbs into the stuffing mix and readied the turkey for the oven. Note to self: next time, go a little heavier on the herbs: though ours are garden-fresh, they’re just not as pungent as those from our local farmers available at the market.

We sat down to a dinner that included a half-dozen types of produce from our garden, the rest from Northwest farmers, and wines from the region. More thankful feelings all around.

Later we enjoyed a stellar pumpkin pie that Susie made from our own “Cinderella coach,” the heirloom Rouge vif d’Etampes pumpkins that had been decorating our table since Halloween.

As the holiday waned into a big football win by our hometown Seahawks, I saw the warning on Cliff Mass’ weather blog about a cold snap coming. I made a mental note to get out into the yard again on Friday morning to add a little extra protection to the plants.

Cool-season gardening means paying attention to those rumors and reports, and timing it just right to make sure all your effort doesn’t amount to a soggy pile of wilted leaves after a cold snap. Or a bout of snow, which was also in the forecast…

Stoneface in snowStoneface side

Saving Seeds, Planting Now: Weekend Talks

How do you save seed from a favorite tomato? Will bean seeds dry fully in the yard? How do you keep birds from gobbling all your flower seeds?

Black Spanish Radish

Black Spanish radishes and their edible pods.

Those practical issues, along with a bit of science and philosophy behind saving seeds, will be the topic of my talk this Saturday at City People’s Garden Store in south-central Seattle.

“Saving Seeds of Your Favorite Edibles” is the sixth of seven classes in our Edible Year series. It’s 10-11 a.m. Please pre-register with the nursery.

On Sunday I’ll head the other direction, both literally and figuratively. Going north to Swansons Nursery, I’ll give a slide show and presentation on what to grow now.

In “Edibles for Fall and Winter” I’ll detail what crops you can get started now from seed, what to look for in the nursery, and when to plant them for fall and winter harvests. We’ll also discuss “overwintering” crops that you start now and plan to eat next spring. That talk, also free, begins at 11 a.m.

Contest alert: $1,000 Available

CPGS-contest-small

Do you work with a community garden that could use some new supplies, or has big plans for next spring but could use plants? Then you should apply for the City People’s Garden Store Urban Garden Contest! The chosen entry will get a $1,000 gift card that can be used at the nursery over the next year. Deadline is Aug. 31, so there’s still time to apply.

 

 

Garlic Harvest: Inner Chef Says Thanks!

I knocked my head against a hanging braid of garlic the other day, and instead of the predictable response, I had to smile. That ceiling rack in the garage holds the spice of many meals. And the harvest is the result of nearly effortless planting.

Four garlics

Garlic is harvested in late June to early July, when about a third of the leaves have turned brown.

Please grow garlic. It’s so easy, and it’s so good.

In a post last November, I went through the steps of planting it, which is done at the end of fall, when there’s plenty of open bed space and not much else happening, besides watching the winter vegetables grow.

I planted four varieties of garlic, one head of each. They went into 6-foot-long rows. Here’s

Garlic drying

My garlic hangs in a corner of the garage to cure, from twine attached to a welded-wire grid on the ceiling. Softneck varieties, in the foreground, are braided. Hardnecks are hung upside down.

what is now hanging in my garage, finishing the drying process so it will last me through the winter:

Inchelium Red — This is a softneck garlic with fairly large heads of 12-15 cloves each. I got 10 heads, but 6 are somewhat small and immature.

Spanish Roja — My favorite garlic, this Northwest heirloom (sometimes called Greek Blue) is a hardneck that provided us with a nice meal of “scapes” this spring, the flower heads that you cut when they curl up out of the center of the plant. The yield was 13 heads, with about a third of them smaller than expected.

Garlic scapes

Garlic scapes are the curly seed-heads that emerge from hardneck garlics in mid-spring. Cut them to send more energy to the bulb, then steam or stir-fry them for a fresh spring garlic dish.

Killarney Red — A new variety for me, this hardneck garlic shows a soft apricot color beneath its papery skin, belying its name. I haven’t peeled any yet, so a brighter red might  be under there. It yielded 8 heads, uniformly on the small side of medium.

Lorz Italian — This reliable softneck garlic braided beautifully. It also produced 10 wonderful heads of a generous size, two of which had irregular bulbils growing along the stem.

Those irregular growths on the Lorz, as well as two or three heads that came out of the ground soft or damaged, went straight to the kitchen to be used immediately. The rest are pretty much dry now, and soon I’ll cut them down and store them in mesh onion bags, hanging in a dry, cool spot in my basement. As I go to grab a new one for cooking, I’ll run my hands through each bag to make sure none have gotten soft in storage.

There are few edibles easier to grow than garlic. Plan now to devote a space in your winter garden to this spicy allium. Next year, the chef in you will thank me.

Rainy Day Veggie Review

Don’t you just love a rainy day?

Our respite from warm-and-sunny couldn’t be more welcome in my garden. The parched corners not quite reached by the watering system are greening up. A friend mentioned over coffee that she noticed marigolds really don’t like the heat, as they looked stressed but now are bright and, well, sunny again. It leaves the sky but shows up in the flowers – go figure.

So I took the opportunity to wander my wet garden with the camera, because the newly refreshed plants photograph well in the flat light of a cloudy day. Here’s my veggie photo review.

Kabocha squash

The Buttercup kabocha-type squash is setting lots of fruit, and offering plenty of male flowers which can be used in a saute.

Kabocha squash vines

Here’s a good use for the lawn in summer: cover it with squash vines! The Buttercup kabocha is very vigorous.

Kale and beans

I wanted beans in this bed, but still had a vigorous Lacinato (Dino) kale there, so I’m just working around it. They seem fine now, but we’ll see if they grow as large as the others.

Purple Bumblebee cherry tomato

These “Purple Bumblebee” cherry tomatoes are voluminous and getting pretty big. Time to start turning their bumblebee colors!

Yellow Banana peppers

Yellow Banana peppers are 2-3 inches long, and the bottom one is looking ripe.

Painted Lady beans

Painted Lady scarlet runner beans are in full flower. They’ve reached the top of a 15-foot bamboo teepee and are looking for more height!

Walla Walla Sweet onions

Walla Walla Sweet onions won’t get as big as the ones from eastern Washington, but they are bulbing nicely. They naturally rise above the soil as they grow.

lettuce in cold frame

The last of our spring lettuce crop is ironically in the cold frame. I’ve long ago removed the cold frame’s top, but I think the partial shade of the walls is keeping this crop from bolting as fast as the ones in the regular garden.

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Day in My Garden

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of the day, I planted a few seeds, set in some lettuce starts, and then wandered the garden taking pictures. Here’s what it

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looked like today in my garden.

Sprout Under Glass

Sprout under glass.

Yacon

Yacon.

Mason Bee Block

Mason bee block.

Peas

Peas on bamboo trellis.

Chives in bud.

Chives in bud.

Liberty Apple blossoms

Liberty apple blossoms.

Lettuce on Hori Hori

Lettuce starts on Hori Hori.

Compost

Compost.

Black Spanish radish

Black Spanish radish in flower.

Beet seeds

Beet seeds.

Potatoes

All Blue Potatoes.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb.

Arugula flowers

Arugula flowers.

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

 

 

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