Harvest Monday June 7, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The spring lettuce is about to come to an end. I cut the last of the oakleaf types, and I won’t replant these until cooler weather arrives this fall. I used much of this for a salad we had for lunch one day, topped with fresh fruit, avocado and some homemade croutons from my whole wheat bread.

red and green oakleaf lettuce

lunch salad

I do have several heat resistant leaf lettuces growing that are still sizing up. Bergam’s Green has proven to be amazingly bolt-resistant for me, even more so than Simpson Elite. This head weighed almost a pound, and we used it for wilted lettuce salad one night last week. I also have Red Sails and Slobolt planted now, and they should also hold up well in the heat. My next planting will include Batavian types like Muir, Slogun and Canasta and hopefully they will give us something edible in July.

Bergam’s Green lettuce

We’ve also been adding the leaves of the Miz America mizuna to our salads, and more of it is going in a stir fry I have planned. Also going in the stir fry will be the pac choi I cut last week.

Miz America mizuna

Mei Qing pac choi

We got a modest but much appreciated harvest of cherries from our two trees. One is a sweet cherry, and the other is the North Star dwarf pie cherry. They are shaded by a giant maple tree which limits their yields. Still, we got enough for a cobbler and that was a sweet seasonal treat for us.

cherry harvest

I was somewhat surprised to see the broccoli plants heading up already. Happy Rich is a sprouting broccoli that makes small main heads and lots of side shoots.  These gave us a brief taste of what is to come from the eight plants of spring sprouting broccoli I set out this April.

Broccoli Happy Rich

I got more kohlrabi last week, this time the green skinned Terek and the white skinned Beas. The slugs are having a field day on the skins, but I really don’t care since the damage is cosmetic and we peel the skins off anyway.

Terek and Beas kohlrabi

In non-harvest news, Mama bluebird has been busy and has a new nest with five eggs for her second brood of 2021. I’ve been hosting bluebirds for years, and must have seen a hundred nests by now but I never get tired of seeing them.

bluebird nest with eggs

My wife and I managed a getaway last week to Spring Mill State Park for a picnic and some hiking. The park has several good hiking trails and an old grist mill built in 1817 that still turns out stone-ground corn meal. We had our lunch, then toured the grist mill and saw it operate before going on a little ‘moderate’ rated hike. It made for an enjoyable day, and it was great to see so many families with children out enjoying nature like we were doing. We were also serenaded by a cacophony of cicadas, as Brood X has emerged from underground after 17 years and mating is their top priority. As a bonus we brought home a bag of the freshly ground corn meal which should make some tasty cornbread.

us at the entrance to park

me outside the grist mill

climbing up the trail

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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Harvest Monday May 31, 2021

t’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. I had a couple of new “first” harvests last week to give us some variety in our meals. I cut two of the Mei Qing pak choi I have growing in a bed behind the greenhouse. The outer leaves have some slug damage but the insides were clean and green. I also have a purple leaf pac choi that should be ready soon. Mei Qing is my favorite of the green stem chois, and it has been a reliable performer for me for years.

Mei Qing pac choi

We used the pac choi in a pork stir fry that also featured some of our fresh asparagus. With a few added mushrooms and carrots, we served it over brown rice and it made for a filling one-dish dinner.

stir fry with pork, pac choi and asparagus

We plan to cut the asparagus for another couple of weeks. The spears are getting smaller, but we’re getting plenty to eat and I think  the smaller ones are just as useful in the kitchen as the big ones. We eat them every which way when they are in season, and then we don’t eat asparagus again until the next year.

asparagus harvest

The other “first” was a harvest of kohlrabi. The white skinned Beas and the purple Kolibri are sizing up nicely for me now. We enjoy kohlrabi both raw and cooked, and we ate these raw – peeled, sliced and served with a yogurt garlic dip.

Beas and Kolibri kohlrabi

Salads are still frequently on our menu. I cut a couple heads of Simpson Elite lettuce last week to use for wilted lettuce. And some of the oakleaf lettuce from last week wound up as a base for a Pork Carnitas Taco Salad we had for lunch one day. I made a buttermilk ranch dressing to go with that one. We try and mix it up with our salads, though most are usually meatless and use beans, cheese and egg for protein. The taco salad had all the flavors of tacos, but with a lot more lettuce.

Simpson Elite lettuce

Pork Carnitas Taco Salad

For years I’ve been baking all the bread my wife and I eat, and I keep leftovers in the freezer pretty much at all times. It was time to replenish our stores, so I went on a bread baking kick last week. I baked a loaf of my Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread and a sourdough pullman pan loaf. That should keep us supplied for a bit, but now I need to bake some sandwich buns since we are out of those too. Baking the sourdough bread in a pullman pan makes for a dense, moist loaf that can be sliced quite thinly on the second day after baking. We used some of this for an open faced tuna salad sandwich we had for lunch one day.

homemade breads

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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Late May Garden Update

Today I want to give a quick virtual tour of our vegetable garden here in late May. The last couple of weeks I have been busy clearing, planting, weeding and mulching, and the summer garden is about 75% planted. I got the last beds/rows worked up and fertilized first, then I started in on planting. We’ve had a dry spring, and it was easy to work up the beds using both a fork and the rototiller as needed. I added compost along with amendments as dictated by a soil test I did earlier in the year. I’ve managed to build up soil fertility the last few years, and I only needed to add nitrogen along with a few minor elements like boron, zinc and manganese. I add other fertilizer directly to heavy feeding crops at planting time. For the areas where I plant beans and sweet potatoes, I skip the  extra nitrogen since they don’t need it.

garden after working up

I finished up setting out the tomatoes, and moved on to the sweet and hot peppers. I am using a mix of mulching methods, including my old favorite newspaper and straw treatment as well as woven weed barrier fabric. I also uses pieces of cardboard my wife and I save during the year, especially around the edges of the garden and around the vining squashes.

tomato and pepper plantings

For most of the tomatoes I set them out and mulched with newspaper before placing the cages around them. I will go back soon and add straw on top of the paper and inside the cages.

tomato mulched with newspaper

I also did a small test planting of experimental varieties from the University of Florida Citizen Science Initiative and from Fred Hempel at Artisan Seeds  using the weed barrier fabric. For that I made an x-shaped cut using scissors, then added Happy Frog tomato fertilizer and worked it in the planting hole. The tomato transplants were not overly lanky, so I only set them a bit deeper than they were growing in the 3.5″ pots they were in before planting.

tomato set in weed barrier fabric

I did the same for the peppers, mulching most of them with newspaper and then setting a few into the weed barrier fabric. I set out a total of 12 sweet peppers and 20 hot peppers. I dry a lot of the hot peppers plus I use them for hot sauce, so I always plant more of them. I have to say I was happy with the quality of both the tomato and pepper plants this year, no doubt helped by a somewhat earlier sowing time indoors and a somewhat later setting out time due to weather issues. I also have 6 pots of C. baccatum peppers I grew last year then overwintered indoors that I will set out in the ground. I use the Happy Frog Tomato fertilizer (5-7-3) for peppers and eggplant too since it seems to suit them well.

double wide row of peppers

 

pepper plant mulched with newspaper

The bush squashes I set out a week or so ago in the weed barrier fabric have taken off and started growing. I also have a couple of Astia zucchini plants I set out early in grow bags that should give us an early taste of squash.

squash planted in woven fabric

The bush beans I sowed a week ago have also started coming up. I will be sowing a long row of pole beans also which supply most of our beans for fresh eating in summer and freezing for later use.

beans coming up

I still have plenty of garden chores to do in addition to sowing pole beans, including setting out about a dozen eggplants and planting sweet potato slips. I grew all my own slips again this year, using five varieties of sweet potatoes from storage. And I need to finish setting out the rest of the vining squashes, which I hope to get done tomorrow. I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the garden here in May, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday May 24, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The harvests this time of year are still limited to salad greens and asparagus, but at least we have plenty of both of them. We’ve harvested seven pounds of asparagus so far, which is plenty to keep the two of us happy. It’s my wife’s turn to cook (we take two week rotations) and she made Asparagus Mimosa yesterday for our lunch using some of the haul. Steamed asparagus topped with grated hard boiled egg, capers and olive oil makes for a filling but light seasonal lunch.

fresh asparagus

Asparagus Mimosa

Asparagus Mimosa

The spring planting of greenhouse lettuce is winding down, and hopefully the ones I have planted in a bed outside will join the harvests next. I do like the oakleaf types, and Panisse is one of my favorite green varieties with leaves that have a buttery texture and mild flavor. I also made a cutting of red and green Salanova oakleaf last week.

Panisse lettuce

Salanova red and green oakleaf lettuce

One newcomer to our salad plates was a red butterhead called Teodore. It did well here this spring, and I will try it again this fall and winter.

Teodore lettuce

Salads are on the menu frequently these days, and one creation we enjoyed last week was topped with fresh fruit and candied pecans while another was a Cheeseburger salad with ground beef and cheese for protein. I made a dressing for that one from buttermilk, pickle relish and homemade ketchup.

salad topped with fruit

Cheeseburger salad

I’ve been busy lately working in the vegetables garden getting things planted and mulched. I got tomatoes and squashes planted last week, and hope to get peppers and eggplant in the ground soon. The weather has turned hot and dry, and I have been working before breakfast to try and beat the heat. After I’m done outside, I sometimes enjoy a frozen fruit smoothie and a glass of green tea for my late breakfast on the screened porch.

fruit smoothie on the porch

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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Mulching Experiments

This year I’ve decided to try something new in the garden for mulching – woven weed barrier fabric. The material I’m using is four feet wide, and listed as “professional grade 3.2 oz” material. I have used similar fabric in the past for walkways, but not in the vegetable garden. I am only testing a few crops in a few places, and I am anxious to see how it does.

early tomato plants

mulch around tomato plants

My usual mulching method involves laying down sheets of newspaper or cardboard and then covering with straw. That is what I am doing around most of the tomato, pepper and eggplant this year. Though I have to buy the straw every year, this has the advantage of breaking down eventually and adding to the organic content of the soil. Over the years I have managed to increase the organic material in our soil, and it tested at almost 8% this year. It was running around 5% when I first started gardening in this spot. That tells me I am adding new material faster than it is breaking down, which is a good thing. The organic mulching and liberal addition of homemade compost are obviously helping.

vining squash mulched in 2019

mulching inside of tomato cages

mulching inside of tomato cages

I am securing the edges of the fabric with six inch landscape staples. I am not using the fabric in a permanent location, only as a seasonal mulch and weed control. I don’t plan on covering the fabric, which should be heavy enough to block the light and keep weeds from sprouting and pushing it up. The staples and the fabric should be able to be taken up and reused for several seasons. At least that is my plan!

weed barrier fabric in garden

So far I have planted bush beans and bush squashes in the fabric. For the squashes, I used scissors to cut an “X” in the fabric where I wanted to set the plants. Then I worked in organic fertilizer before setting in the plants and covering with soil. I will thin to one plant per hole once they are established. I set them at two foot intervals, which is my usual spacing for most of the summer bush type squashes.

squash planted in fabric

For the beans I cut a long slit in the fabric then folded it under to make an area to sow the beans. After making a shallow furrow, I sowed the seeds and covered lightly with soil. It wasn’t difficult to get the seeds planted this way, and I am hopeful they will keep the weeds down as well as help conserve soil moisture.

bush beans planted in fabric

I also plan to set out a couple of pepper and tomato plants in another area with a short section of the fabric. Since I use cages to support those crops, we will see how difficult it is to secure the cages in the soil through the thick fabric. I’ll be back later to share how all of these areas are doing as the season progresses.

 

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