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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Harvest Monday May 17, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It’s another week, and not much has changed here. Cold weather has delayed planting outside, but at least it has made for high quality salad greens. I’m cutting a lot of lettuce, and we’re enjoying it several times a week. I have started a few heat resistant summer types in hopes of extending the season a bit longer. Usually the quality diminishes once our really hot weather sets in and makes it not worth growing. For the time being the leaves are tender and mild tasting.

Oscarde lettuce

Salanova Red and Green Oakleaf lettuce

Miz America is a mild tasting mizuna type mustard green with deep burgundy leaves. I first saw this one at a local nursery where the owner convinced me to try a few plants. I’ve been growing it ever since, and it always does well for me here in containers or in-ground plantings like I am growing it this spring. It’s my first time growing the Red Veined Sorrel, but it has already become a favorite. The leaves aren’t as tangy as French Sorrel, but it makes a tasty companion for it and other salad greens.

Red Veined Sorrel and Miz America mizuna

We often have salad for lunch and with a slice of homemade sourdough bread it makes for a light but filling meal. The possibilities are endless, and the base of greens is usually topped with fresh ordried fruit along with beans, nuts, cheese or egg for protein. One creation last week featured fresh ataulfo mango and black beans along with some homemade whole wheat croutons. For that one I used some of the mango to make a vinaigrette dressing along with mango infused white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

salad with mango

Another creation was a Mediterranean themed salad topped with artichoke hearts, flageollet beans and feta cheese. For that one I made a lemon vinaigrette with a bit of fresh oregano from the garden added. I keep an assortment of cooked beans in the freezer which makes it easy to add them to salads and other dishes. And I’ve been making our salad dressings for years now.

Mediterranean themed salad with sourdough bread

In non-harvest news, the soil in the greenhouse beds did warm up enough for me to get the cucumbers planted in there. I’m growing six slicing types this year plus two picklers, which should keep us well supplied. I’m using remesh cages to support the vines, and water reservoirs (aka plant halos) to aid in watering and fertilizing.

greenhouse cucumbers

The iris have been putting on quite a show in our Sun Garden for a couple of weeks now. There were some planted here when we moved in, and my wife has added quite a few since then along with some we got from friends. I moved a short yellow flowered one from my old place, which I got from my neighbor Eva who had moved it from Alabama to Kentucky. Eva moved back to Alabama eventually but her iris lives on here in Indiana.

iris in Sun Garden

Eva’s yellow iris

Our pink peony has just opened up too, and the frilly double blooms are fragrant as well as showy. My parents were not big gardeners but they had several plants of the white flowered ones that grew in our yard for years.

pink flowered peony

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 10, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. Salad season continues here for us, though the cool temperatures have also put soup on the menu. I made cuttings of Oscarde and Navara red oakleaf last week, along with a green oakleaf I’m growing for the first time called Kiribati. All three are doing quite well in containers in the greenhouse, and are helping keep us well supplied with leaves for salads.

Oscarde lettuce

Navara lettuce

Kiribati lettuce

leaves of Kiribati lettuce

I cut leaves of mizuna and Red Veined Sorrel last week to go along with the lettuce. Central Red and Miz America mizuna are mild tasting with purplish red leaves. I have the Miz America growing outside in a bed behind the greenhouse, and the wide burgundy leaves are stunning in salads and other raw uses.

mizuna and sorrel

Central Red, Miz America and Red Veined Sorrel leaves

Our salads generally start with a lot of fresh greens, with protein in the form of egg, cheese, nuts or beans. Fresh fruit also shows up frequently, and soon we will have our homegrown blueberries to add. By the time our cucumbers are coming on, it will likely be too hot for lettuce here so we enjoy cukes from the grocery sometimes on salads.

salad creation

It is still asparagus season here too, and I made a seasonal treat one day for lunch with almost a pound of the spears. Asparagus Mimosa is a simple dish that makes for a light but filling lunch. I steamed the asparagus then topped with grated hard boiled egg and capers and drizzled with olive oil. We paired it with sourdough crostini, which I keep in the freezer pretty much at all times.

Asparagus Mimosa

In the future harvests department, I am pleased with how the pawpaw trees are doing so far. They appear to have set numerous fruit clusters, aided somewhat by my hand pollination. This tree is native to the Eastern U.S. and makes large fruit with a flavor that is sometimes described as having a tropical mango-banana flavor with a smooth custard texture. Last year our trees had no fruit, but a friend gifted us with a bag of his. We had them in 2019, so I am hopeful I can keep the raccoons and opossums away so we can enjoy them ourselves. One of the trees is pretty much full sized, and that is where most of the fruit has set.

Pawpaws

Another future harvest will be the pie cherries. Our little tree has a decent fruit set, and if we can keep the birds away we should enjoy a cobbler or two in about a month.

pie cherries

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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In A Holding Pattern

With our May weather here turning colder than usual, I have delayed planting any of the warm season vegetables for the time being. Tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans both prefer and need warmer temperatures than we are having. So I am playing a waiting game until the weather cooperates. Gardeners are usually at the mercy of the weather, and there’s not a whole lot we can do to change it either!

taking the soil temperature

One way to help decide when to plant certain vegetables is to take the temperature of the soil. You can get it by inserting the thermometer in the soil where you intend to plant the specific crop. You don’t need a special thermometer, and a kitchen type works well as long as it registers in the right range. I took a reading yesterday morning around 10 o’clock, and our soil temp was 55°F. Tomatoes are next in line for me to plant, and they need the soil to be at least 60°F or warmer to take off and grow. You can find a table listing the preferred soil temperatures for various veggies in my Seed Starting & Planting Schedule I worked up a few years back.

bed of kohlrabi

Of course there are a lot of veggies that do like this weather and the cool soil. I set out various brassicas back in early to mid April, and they are doing well. I have a bed of kohlrabi planted behind the greenhouse, and it is starting to size up already. This year I am growing Beas, Terek and Kolibri in the bed and the large Kossak variety in the main garden.

Beas kohlrabi

I have another small bed planted with pac choi and mizuna as well as a bit of leaf lettuce. I have netting over it to keep the deer and other critters from eating on it. I need to mulch that bed and spread some Sluggo pellets since I see signs of slug activity already. Sluggo (and Sluggo Plus) are organic controls for slugs and sow bugs that don’t harm earthworms or other insects. The active ingredient is iron phosphate, which is a naturally occurring compound in soil. It does need to be reapplied after several weeks though.

pac choi

Behind the greenhouse I do have one Red Racer tomato planted in a 15 gallon Smart Pot. This 2018 AAS Winner makes 1 to 2 inch fruit that are set in large clusters and have a great flavor. I kept it in the greenhouse for most of April, until it started to get big and need support. It is beginning to bloom now, and hopefully will set fruit even in the cold temps. One advantage to using the grow bags and other containers is that they warm up faster than garden soil does, allowing me to get a jump on the season with a few plants. I also have Fairy Tale, Gretel and Patio Baby eggplant growing in containers that are still in the greenhouse. These three are also past AAS Winners, and always do quite well for me in containers.

Red Racer tomato

blooms on Red Racer tomato

In the main vegetable garden I planted broccoli, cabbage and the Kossak kohlrabi. I set these out about three weeks ago and they have taken off and made good growth so far. I have mulched with shredded newspaper and will add straw on top of that once the plants get a bit bigger.

napa cabbage plants

broccoli plant

Though I am not planting at the moment I am still working to get the garden ready when it does finally warm up. We’ve had enough rain to make the weeds grow, and in between the rainy spells I have been digging and tilling the beds to ready them for planting. I use cardboard as mulch to help keep the weeds down in between the beds and around the perimeter garden fencing.

getting garden ready for planting

Since planting will be delayed for another couple of weeks, I will be potting up the tomatoes from the 50 cell plug flats into individual pots. That will let the root systems develop as the plants get taller, which should help them get off to a good start even if the planting is delayed. I will likely do the same for the eggplant seedlings which are starting to get a bit leggy. Last year I was able to set out the transplants directly from the plug flat, but this year the weather is just not cooperating.

tomato seedlings

I hope you have enjoyed this update on spring plantings here in early May. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres – including Harvest Monday!

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