Thursday, April 25, 2013

Radish Germination

We had another sunny day today. It hit a high of 78 degrees - out warmest day yet so far this year. Tonight, when I lifted the remay fabric off of the support hoops, I discovered that the radish seed that I planted on Sunday is germinating. I am happy but not too surprised. Radish seed is very quick to germinate and the weather has been perfect.

Still, it is exciting to see all of the tiny seedlings, as they push up the soil and make their appearance. After I watered all five of the rows deeply, I put back the remay fabric. The young plants are very susceptible right now to becoming lunch for any number of birds. I will wait a few weeks before removing the remay tunnel for good. I hope that you were able to get outside and enjoy today's beautiful weather.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Seed Purchases

I received my Baker Creek Seed order late last week. Baker Creek is another of my favorite seed companies. They offer a mind-boggling assortment of GMO- free seed. Their catalog is a visual feast for the eyes. I have spent many a happy Winter evening lost in its descriptions and pictures.

Sadly, I didn't have a lot to order from them this year. I am trying very hard to use up old, but viable, seed before I purchase any thing new. I did pick-up two packets;

"Delicata" Winter Squash - 100 days. "High sugar content. Fruit are 1-3 pounds each, and skin color is rust-white with green stripes.Delicate sweet flavor. This old heirloom was introduced in 1894 by Peter Henderson & Co."

"Good Mother Stallard" Pole Bean - 95-90 days. "Gorgeous, plump maroon-and-white beans are great in soups, where their creamy texture and hearty, nutty flavor really shine. Generations of gardeners have grown this pole variety that yields 5-6 beans per pod - outstandingly productive! Originally introduced by our friend Glenn Drowns. Superior in baked beans, and also makes a fine shell bean."

I also received one free seed packet in my order. An old favorite flower that I haven't grown for years;

"Love-In-A-Mist Mixed Colors" Nigella Hispanica " A splendid mix of colors with wispy  feathery foliage surrounding the beautiful blue, white, pink, and purplish-blue blooms. Love-in-a-mist dates back to English gardens of the 1570's. A very attractive flowering plant".

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Spring Planting in the Kitchen Garden

Today I was able to finish the Spring planting in the kitchen garden that I started last weekend. I began by bringing in more Nature's Best Soil. I filled up one small grow bag and built one 16 X 16 raised bed.

In the raised bed I planted 5 "Red Bull" onions. As you can see in the picture above, these young plants already have a small, deep red section where the bulb will form later in the season. And I can promised you, they really smelled like onions already too! Last year my "Red Bull" onions weighted on average over one pound each.So much potential from such a small plant.

In the grow bag, I planted 12 "Camelot" shallot plants. I have never planted shallots before. These young plants were much smaller than the onions, which is to be expected. Once I got all of the plants settled, I gave everything a good watering in.

I also spent some time planning out the rest of the garden space. Some plants, like the tomatoes, are still a month or more away from joining the garden. But I needed to get a good idea where they would be growing and how much space they would take up. So I got out all of my miscellaneous towers, trellis, and grow bags and marked out the garden.

I have a bean tower, two small potato bags, and a trellis ready and waiting. My potato order from Maine should be here any day.

Recently I purchased two large potato grow bags. I haven't ever tried growing potatoes in grow bags, so this is one of my new adventures this year. If nothing else it should certainly make harvesting much easier.

After I got the garden all marked out, I created a raised bed in the front section. This area will be taken over by Winter Squash in the Summer. But right now there is time to get a quick harvest of radish before the Squash need to get in the ground. So I planted four rows of Radish; (2) of "Red Planet" from Renee's Garden, (1) of "Pink Punch" from Renee's Garden, and (1) of "Plum Purple" from Seed Savers Exchange. The radish should be ready to harvest in approx. 28 days and then this will become a Winter Squash raised bed.

As you can see, I had some "help" with the radish planting. Solomon, a mostly indoor-cat, was fascinated with the whole process.

Once I finished planting the radish seed,  I covered both the radish and the newly planted onions with a remay tunnel. This will allow both the onions and the radish plants to get off to a strong start without having to worry about any bird or chipmunk damage. So here is the completed Spring garden, minus the planted potatoes.

Once the two new grow bags were taken out of the box, the box instantly became a cat trap! First to explore was Solomon.

Then it was Parvati's turn. And when she finally vacated the box, her brother Padma moved in. Gardening - and empty boxes- brings happiness to all walks of life.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lamb's Tongue Season

It is officially Lamb's Tongue season here! Lamb's Tongues, or as they are also commonly called, Trout Lilies, are native to our area. They grow in lightly shaded areas of forests. I have two nice groups of them growing along the secret path.

The pretty bell shaped blooms are just starting to open.

When they are fully open they resemble starfish a bit. 

The biggest patch of Lamb's Tongues are down the road at our neighbor's home. In an area underneath a few oak trees she has a naturalized mass planting.

It is literally a solid carpet of Lamb's Tongues right now.

She doesn't let her son mow this area until the plants have finished blooming for the year and have died back. This allows seed to set and the plants to multiply. Her careful watch over this patch has paid off.

Also tucked into the Lamb's Tongue patch are a few Shooting Stars. They too are a Spring treat. Their pale purple blooms are a great compliment to the soft yellow Lamb's Tongues.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Flowering Kale

Last year I grew kale for the first time. I bought a 4-pack of "Tuscano" kale and planted them in the kitchen garden. One of the plants didn't survive for very long. Another was planted too close to the deer fence. It was constantly "trimmed" all Summer and never had the chance to grow very large. The remaining two plants did quite well.

Above is a picture of one of the kale plants as it looked in late October. As you might be able to make out in the image, the leaves did suffer quite a bit of bug damage. I am not sure at this point who liked it so much, but somebody sure did! But the plants were large and healthy over-all. I left them in the garden to over winter.

Kale is a biennial plant, meaning that it grows its leaves, stems and roots the first year. Then, after a period of dormancy over the colder months, it flowers and sets its seed. In March, as I did some clean-up in the kitchen garden, I decided to keep one of the kale plants. I knew that it would soon start forming buds and would then bloom. I was interested to see what exactly a flowering kale looked like. Here it is! My plant is absolutely covering in beautiful yellow flowers. Each flower has 4 petals that open like a star. The blooms remind me of a mustard plant. I don't know if I will keep the kale in the ground long enough for the seed to set and dry. But for now it's a pretty burst of color in the young kitchen garden.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Seed Purchases

This last weekend I finally got serious and started to plan out the 2013 garden. Saturday we stopped by Down to Earth and I spent some time in the seed racks..a lot of time! Decisions, decisions! I ended up buying 4 packets that were on my list and 3 that weren't! So at least over 50% of my purchases were planned! I bought quite a few seed packets from Renee's Garden. Renee Shepherd has such a wonderful seed company. I have grown both her vegetable and flower seed for a number of years and have never been disappointed  While they do cost just a bit more that those offered by other commercial growers, her seeds are worth every extra penny. From Renee's Garden I bought:

"Bright Bandolier" Sunflower - "This exceptionally ornamental mixture of sunny yellow and warm burnished mahogany is a beautifully balanced palette of classic sunflower shades. The easy to grow plants bear magnificent big flowers that frame the summer garden with plenty to cut for perfectly contrasting bouquets of clear colors with chocolate centers." 5-7 feet

"Black Watchman" Hollyhocks - "This beautiful heirloom variety, grown by Thomas Jefferson at his Monticello estate, has been carefully re-selected for us by the best Dutch seedsmen for classic form and rich color. The big 3 to 4 inch hibiscus-like blossoms have satiny petals in a wonderful deep dark maroon that shades to black. Black Watchman's blooms unfurl slowly on sturdy tall 5 to 7 foot stalks and make a singular and striking garden display".

"Raspberry Sorbet" Cutting Zinnia - "These lovely flowers offer beautiful, deep raspberry-tinted double blossoms on branching long-stemmed plants that reach 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall. Raspberry Sorbet zinnias are both free flowering and long blooming and the abundant flower heads add glowing color to Summer beds and borders. The more you pick, the more flowers will develop. Butterflies seek these beauties out all Summer long."

"Mini Jack" Pumpkin - Easy to grow and very reliable, Mini Jack baby pumpkins mature much earlier than their bigger cousins, rewarding you with armfuls of 3 to 4 inch, deeply ribbed fruits. They make welcome gifts and centerpieces. These happy little beauties are also deliciously edible; bake them whole for individual servings". 80-85 days

I was also really happy to see that Renee's Garden has started to sell organic seed this year. In my never ending quest for the perfect red radish, I picked up:

"Red Planet" radish - " Quick to mature, round red radishes with crispy, mild tasting flesh. In and out of the garden in no time; grow several crops for salads and snacking".  Approx. 28 days

I also bought 2 packets of seeds from  Seed Saver's Exchange. I have been a member of this wonderful organization for over a decade and like to support them whenever I possibly can. I have grown Butternut squash for years and love it. I just needed to purchase some fresh seed. But I was also looking for a new-to-me Winter Squash to grow this year.

"Waltham Butternut" Winter Squash - "This Butternut, an AAS winner in 1970, was the result of years of patient refinement and selection by Bob Young of Waltham, Massachusetts. Prized for its straight necks, rich dry yellow-orange flesh, nutty flavor, and high yielding vines. Fruits are 3-6 pounds and exceptional keepers." 83-100 days.

"Guatemalan Blue Banana" Winter Squash - "Belongs to the banana group of squashes, noted for their fine table quality. This selection is dark "blue" with light stripes; golden-yellow flesh is thick and firm. Fruits range up to 20" in length and average 5 pounds. We like to keep this one in the refrigerator after the initial cutting and continue slicing off small rings that can be either baked or roasted." 90-95 days

Monday, April 15, 2013

Starting the Spring Kitchen Garden

Today I had very high hopes of getting my entire Spring garden planted. I had gotten a good start on it Saturday. At the Lane County Farmer's Market, I picked up my onion plants...and a few extras! My plan was to purchase one six-pack tray each of the two varieties that I grew last year. So, at the Hayhurst stand I bought:

"Red Bull" - 114 days. Large Red Bulbs. Uniform bulb size with nice red color throughout the interior rings. Storage Onion. Adaptation 43-65 degrees latitude

"Frontier" - 95-100 days An early hybrid long-day onion.Frontier has excellent size and uniformity and under optimum conditions can be stored until April. Skins are excellent, dark golden in color and necks are small.

But then I saw a few other varieties that were calling my name! And part of the fun of gardening for me is trying new things, whether that means new types of vegetables or new varieties. So into my basket went:

"Camelot" 110 days. Dark red shallot from seed with an excellent flavor. Red skin contrasts nicely with white interior. Uniform, tear-drop shaped bulbs could store through the Winter until April. Adaptability 40-55 degrees latitude

"Candy"  110 days. Sweet, mild onion. Slightly flattened yellow onion has potential for large size. A Walla-Walla type for growing father South. 

In the afternoon on Saturday we went to Lane Forest Products and picked up one scoop of Nature's Best. Then I worked and created a long raised bed parallel to the garlic row. So, I was sure that I would be able to build my other beds on Sunday and get everything planted. Wrong! I am afraid that Mother Nature had other ideas. It seemed to rain all day with just a few 1/2 hour breaks scattered about. So each time the skies lightened up, I headed back outdoors. All I was able to accomplish was planting the "Candy" & the "Frontier" onions.

Here's a trio of young "Candy" onions.

And here is my section of "Frontier".  After I got the row completely planted, I put up 5 metal hoops and covered the onions with a layer of remay fabric. This will keep the plants a little bit warmer but more importantly to me, it will prevent the little birds from nipping and eating at the onions. Once the plants are well established, I will remove the remay cover for the rest of the Summer. So, while I don't have the whole Spring garden in, I do have a good start. Next weekend I will plant my other onions and sew a quick crop of radish as well.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Oregon Grape

As I took a walk along the Highway, I flash of bright yellow caught my eye. It was flowering Oregon Grape, mahonia aquifolium.

Oregon Grape if the State Flower of Oregon. It grows profusely on our property, in semi-shaded areas. To be honest, I don't really notice it most of the year.

But each Spring it sets these pretty clusters of bright yellow flowers. When pollinated, they will produce purple/black grape-like berries, which the birds really enjoy. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Back to the Farmer's Market

Last Saturday was the official opening of the Lane County Farmer's Market. Although the Market is open every other Saturday during the Winter, on the First Saturday pf April it begins its weekly run. I was unable to attend last weekend, so this was my first visit of the year.

When we arrived, the skies were grey but the temperature was mild and it wasn't raining. There was a good crowd milling about. I do love the beautiful, old pick-up truck used as a display stand by this Farmer.

As expected for this time of year, there was an abundance of greens for sale.

This was a great display of well grown leeks. I over-heard a gentleman suggest to his wife that they by the ingredients to make potato & leek soup for dinner. Good idea!

A basket full of shallots.

An enormous pile of "French Breakfast" radish.

As always, the flower sellers were making beautiful, seasonal bouquets. The stars of the bouquets this week were the daffodils and the tulips.

An nice group of mixed color radish.

And it wouldn't be Spring without asparagus. 

After we got back home, and the rain & hail showers ended, I spent most of the afternoon working outside. I began by "re-weeding" the mudroom flowerbed. Beth and I first attacked this bed on February 24th. Since then many a new weed has sprouted! It was definitely time to give it one good going-over again. It really is amazing all of the growth that has occurred in the last 7 weeks.

The Cone Flowers were just barely beginning to leaf out back at the end of February. Now we have nice, big vigorous clumps. And for the second year in a row, the "Black & Blue" Salvia Guaranitica has made it trough the Winter. Our two plants are growing like gangbusters and I expect that they will become as monstrous as last year's plants. The hummingbirds will be so happy!