Monday, February 28, 2011

Harvest Monday....2/28/2011

Although we use our stored harvests and herbs & spices daily, I'm not real good at taking pictures and documenting what we use.

This past week I did have a couple of small harvests and also a great recipe that I found to share. I was looking for a recipe to use pork chops and spinach and came across an unbelievable wonderful recipe for spinach. Although the recipe calls for fresh spinach, I used some frozen from last years harvest. The spinach is sauted with green onions and is to die for!! I found this recipe have got to try it!!

Three small overwintered green onions and a very small leek for the spinach recipe.

The first tiny radish from the cold frame. I took the picture then promptly ate it!

This is an onion that was over at the plots. I pulled out at least a dozen and this one was not damaged from the winters cold. I think it probably weighs more then my entire onion crop failure last year....Hmmm...maybe I should just ignore the onions this year and they will grow!!

Stop by Daphne's Dandelion's our host of Harvest Monday to see more harvest from around the globe!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Working on the Plots - Day 3

The weather was good again today to go work on the plots. I spent a good 3 hours or more over there and got a lot more accomplished. I would have spent more time there. However, tomorrow is "The Italian's" BD and I had to get home to bake bread and a BD cake.

All of the brush is piled up and I started to mark off where everything is going to be.

Pile of junk that will have to be disposed of. I think that the county will pick it up. There were a lot of flower pots with the bottoms cut out. As I'm writing this.... maybe I should keep them to put around the plants when they are first sown. They would be protected from wind that way. I was planning to keep that wire box....but all of the wood is rotted and there is an old cold frame in the back that I can use.

A couple of  beds marked off. I really want to get them all marked so we don't walk on the soil where the beds are going to be.

A few more hours of work and they will be cleaned up and marked off. It doesn't look like I will be able to go back until Tuesday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Clearing out the Plots

The weather was nice enough yesterday and today for me to get over to the plots and start cleaning up. I spent about 5 hours total over there and have managed to get a lot done. Yesterday I picked up all of the pots, removed tomato cages and odd supports and pull out a lot of 6' high weeds. I also removed some fencing back by the huge bushes and lost my clip on sunglasses.

Today I spent most of the time in the back by the blackberry bushes. I removed all of the dead wood and pulled a lot of suckers out. There are two big bushes in a really bad place that I cut back and they will be removed. I also found quite a few neglected raspberries. I cut them back  and removed all of the dead branches.

Raspberries and trimmed blackberry bushes

As you can see there are two bushes to the left that are in a bad spot. Those will be removed. There are also a couple of bigger suckers that trimed but couldn't get out of the ground yet.

No more jungle!!

They are getting there!! We are supposed to have rain tomorrow. So it looks like I won't be back over there until Saturday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Initial Soil Testing Complete for the Plots

I did the basic at home soil testing on the soil samples that I got from the plots on Saturday. Although this is not the best time to test or is this the best type of testing, it does give me a basic idea of what I have over there. Fortunately the soil at the plots is not solid clay as we had here.

I took six samples from six different locations and marked them with a stake. I thought that I had six capsules for the four different tests. It turned out that I had only five for the PH test.

The results are as follows:

#1 - PH 7     Nitrogen - N1 Deficient   Phosphorus- Low P2 Adequate   Potash - K3 Sufficient

#2 - PH 7.2   Nitrogen - NO Depleted   Phosphorus- Low P2 Adequate   Potash - K4 Surplus

#3 - PH 7      Nitrogen - N1 Deficient   Phosphorus- P2 Adequate     Potash - K3 Sufficient

#4 - PH 6.8   Nitrogen - N1 Deficient    Phosphorus- P2 Adequate    Potash - K3 Sufficient

#5 - PH 6.8   Nitrogen - N1 Deficient    Phosphorus- Low P2 Adequate   Potash - K3 Sufficient

#6 - PH ?     Nitrogen - N1 Deficient     Phosphorus - Low P2 Adequate   Potash - K2 Adequate

The PH at the plots is higher then what I have here at the house, but good overall. Potash is good with the exception of one test where it is a bit high. All samples were a bit low but considered adequate for phosphorus. As you can see the Nitrogen is very low every where. So, it looks like we need compost, dried blood and bone meal at the plots.

Later in the season, I will most likely send soil samples to Penn State for a more accurate and complete test.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Community Garden Plots Update

It was nice enough today for me to go over to the plots and get some soil samples, more measurements and some pictures. Although it is not the perfect time to take soil samples, I really need an idea of what I'm dealing with over there. 

So, I got my gear together and headed out.

I labeled two different types of stakes that I found in our camping gear. I figured if one type didn't work the other would.

I also labeled six canning jars and lids and gathered up a hammer, little garden spade, tape measure, paper towels, a sharpie and my camera.

I took soil samples from six different locations. I marked each location with a stake and put the soil in the corresponding labeled canning jar. It wasn't too difficult to get the soil. I only had to use the hammer a couple of times to get through a little bit of frozen ground on the top. It will take a few days before I have the soil samples ready and tests complete. I will post on that when they are finished.

After that was done I thought I would get some more pictures and show everyone what I have found.

This is our neighbor to the left. I like the way they have the rain barrels elevated to get some water pressure. The plot on the right is empty and over grown.

To the left of the current gate and about where we are going to locate our new gate is an area where they put down some concrete slabs. This is a perfect spot for these.

In the back of the plots there are these huge bushes. Originally I thought that they were all raspberry I'm not so sure. These are very big with absolutely no thorns on them. What do you think....are they raspberries?? I did find some small raspberries to the right of these.

In one area toward the right side in the middle, I found some abandoned strawberry plants amongst the weeds.

On the left side amongst some weeds....abandoned onions.

All over the plots are plants like this, some are in the middle of tall weeds and some out there like this. It looks like someone planted these plots last spring and then let them go later in the season.

The right side of the plot, plants surrounded by cut off plastic containers. As you can see, the plot on the right has not been gardened for some time. There is a fence there though. I think that a new person rented it this year. We will find out.

This is the left side of the plots where the abandoned onions are located. You can see them if you blow up the picture. There is also a fence along this side.

Hopefully, after this little snow we are supposed to get the weather will stabilize and I can get over there and start cleaning up. For now I will get an idea of what is going on with the soil and start getting the other materials together that we need.

SNOW......oh NO!

I really need to get over to the plots to get some soil samples for testing. Since it seems like the weather forecast changes constantly. I thought that I would check it again and see what day would be or tomorrow. Do you believe that they are calling for snow tonight and tomorrow night?? I really don't want any more snow! I guess that I better get over there today.

Today: Breezy with sun followed by increasing clouds. High: 38

Tonight: Snow this evening, changing to sleet overnight and possibly mixing with rain to the south. Low: 29

Monday (President's Day): Rather cloudy with a little rain in the morning. Another batch of rain moves in late Monday; changing to snow overnight. High: 43 Low: 20

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Old Man Winter has returned

We had two beautiful warm days in a row. The temperature yesterday reached the 70's!! Well, Old Man Winter is back!! Overnight the winds have picked up and we are under a wind advisory with gusts reaching 50 mph today! The temperature is supposed to drop down to 17 F tonight :( 

I was really enjoying the warm weather yesterday and got a lot of work done outside. The shed is almost completely cleaned out and I managed to get everything out of the garage next door. While I was working outside I noticed bunny droppings in the one veggie bed. This reminded me to get out the bunny spray and spray around the beds and the crocuses. Hopefully, I have beat the bunnies to the crocus flowers. It is usually quite cold & I forget to spray them in time to avoid the bunny buffet!

Now as I look outside, the garbage can has blown across the deck, the lid to that one is in the yard next door and one of the recycling bins is up against the cold frames. I'm going to have to venture outside and get things under control and picked up. Well, I can look at it this way....maybe we are having an early March!!

With the sounds of Old Man Winter outside at least I have happy seedlings growing in the basement.

The early Basil is looking good!

Turkish Parsley

My "Little Garden Helper" wanted to plant some seeds last Friday and picked out some sunflowers. It's going to be fun to tend to these inside for a few months!! When they get a little bigger, I think that I will pot them up and send some of them home with him. They have a nice size room off their living room which has windows on all three sides and faces south

Some Broccoli and Cabbages forming their fist true leaves.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Signs of Spring

We are being blessed or teased with a few days of warm weather. The temperature today reached 55 F and we are supposed to reach 63 F tomorrow! Saturday the temperatures will return to normal, about 45 F. The snow is beginning to melt and there are signs of Spring!

The Crocuses are almost ready to bloom & I can find the Leeks once again!

The Grape Hyacinths are green and signs of bulbs peaking through the ground

The Sage bush has emerged from beneath the snow and the Strawberries are showing signs of new growth

Daffodils sprouting through the fall leaves and the Garlic is showing through the straw and snow

Come on Spring!!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gardening Boots

My "Little Garden Helper" and I got rain boots for gardening. I'm usually a bare-foot gardening gal...but I think that we are going to need boots to work at the plots this spring.

I got a great deal on my boots and they have pictures of Rome on them! My "Little Garden Helper's" boots are just so cute and almost as big as mine!! Now all we have to do is find a good pair of boots for "The Italian"!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Birds in the Bush.....or should I say Tree

There are two very large holly trees on the property next door. Every winter dozens of birds come and eat the holly berries. They arrived here about three days ago. Once they eat most of the berries they leave.

Those are two pretty big Holly Trees!

I am clueless when it comes to birds. I know the basic Robin, Gold Finch, House Finch, Cardinal & Blue Bird. ....but that's about it. I always thought that because I have a bird name and as a child I really didn't like it, that was the reason I was bird ignorant. Maybe, I just really need to get a good bird picture book.

These birds look similar to a Robin ....but much much larger

They will eat most of the berries on those trees before they leave.
Do any of you know what type of bird they are??

Cold Frames......observations

The cold frames are doing very well maintaining a good temperature. The lowest temperature that has been recorded is 27 F at night when the temperatures outside were in the single digits at night and only in the teens during the day for a few days..that's pretty good! The cold frames face south and do not have many elements creating much shade on them. On a bright sunny day when the temperature outside only reaches the 20's, I have to open them up to let in some cool air. I really have to pay attention when the sun is shining or they will climb to 70 F or higher in no time at all. I really don't want the temperatures to fluctuate too much and stress the plants.

Cold Frame Lettuce

When the cold frames are covered with snow, they usually stay around 37 F all day and all night. I think that this makes for happy plants. The temperatures over the next week are supposed to climb in to the mid 50's!! The higher temperatures in conjunction with the extended day light hours will hopefully get those veggies growing!! This year I will definitely get my winter vegetables planted on time and not in November!!

A radish showing a little red and some Arugala

I am not sure how much heat the rope lights are adding to the overall temperature inside the cold frames. I did however check the soil temperature on Saturday and it was about 45-47 F. The remainder of the garden beds are still covered with a significant amount of, you know the ground is quite cold.

A little more lettuce

Another observation that I have made is that a few plants in the cold frame on the left had some insect damage and there was little damage in the other cold frame. I had added some diatomaceous earth a while back and the munching has seemed to stop.

The Pak Choi that the insects must like as much as we do! The picture on the left is from the one cold frame and the picture on the right is from the other cold frame.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day..............Update

I have to say that "The Italian" always surprises me when it comes to gifts. He always puts a lot of thought in to the gifts that he gets me. Sometimes the gifts are extravagant and sometimes they are simple...but, they are always with a lot of thought and lots & lots of love.

We've have been on an M & M kick lately....Aren't they pretty??

Bring up the tea: I bring him tea in bed when he reads in the early morning
Farmer Robin: You can figure that one out!
N.O. Our Town: New Orleans is our favorite place and we visit there a couple times a year
Love T.: "The Italian's" real name starts with a T

Although I ordered his present over a week ago, it was just shipped today!! This is what he is getting

Guess who is going to be doing the freezing this season???
He will just love it....he is a kitchen gadget junky!!

Guess What I just got???

A Big Bouquet of These!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2011 Tomato Varieties and planning update

Well, my tomato plans have changed a bit since I did this post. I had originally planned to sow 30 tomato plants consisting of 17 varieties. We are now going to sow 41 plants consisting of 20 varieties. First, 30 plants would not be enough for our family's needs. Second, Emily sent me seed for a wonderful sounding tomato called Purple Calabash. It's her how can I resist???

Third, I also found a local Heirloom Seed Project at Landis Valley Museum where I purchased two additional varieties, Reigart Plum & Belgian Beauty. "The Italian" and I were watching PBS a few weeks ago and saw a program on Landis Valley Museum. We have never been there and truthfully didn't know of it's existance. It is about 60 miles from where we live. The museum is dedicated to Preserving Pennsylvania German Culture. I really wish that I had known about their seed project earlier. They have a lot of Pennsylvania Heirloom seeds available to purchase. I was as good as I could be and only purchased a few things that I absolutely "Needed"!!........well, basically "Wanted".

This week I will be germinating the ten plants that will be sown here at the house. These plants will be sown in the ground early, probably in early April as I did last year. Four of them will be sown in the bed where we will place the greenhouse over and the other six will be in Kozy Koats.

The "Kozy Koats" worked out very well last year and I was able to sow the tomato plants in the ground about 5 weeks earlier then normal.

The balance of the plants for us and others will be germinated in mid-March. I do not want to go through what I did last year. Last year I had started all of the tomatoes in February and they go so big it was a real pain to tend to them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pre-Sprouting Containers...a special thank-you to EG

I pre-sprout many of my seeds before I plant them. In the past I would put them on a damp paper towel, roll it up, place them in a plastic bag (left open) and put them on top of my radiator covers. This year, EG over at Our Engineered Garden sent me some great little containers for sprouting seeds. I have to say that they are working out great! I no longer have to open the bags and un-roll the paper towel to check on the seeds!! All I have to do now is open the containers!

In another day or two I will sow these and put them downstairs on the germinating table under the lights.

Thanks EG!!