Happenings on the Hilltop
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Nothing quite as entertaining as the adventure with the Butterfly Bush the other day to report. Unless of course, you were actually here to witness my hobbling around the place the next day. I didn't hurt myself, but I sure hurt all over. Especially my right arm. You know, from patting myself on the back? Honestly, I was just a little stiff and sore, but nothing serious. It actually felt pretty good to do something really physical.
The neighbor farmer came the next day and finished up the garden. It looks fantastic! I've been working on marking off the wide rows and pulling soil from the walkways up onto the rows. I prefer gardening with wide deep rows. They heat up better for planting and drain well. By planting intensively, it also cuts down on weed growth. We'll have at least thirty 3' x 20' rows. Maybe more, because he overshot the outline I had staked out before he started plowing. The soil is nice and crumbly, perfect growing condition. I'm still waiting on the results from the soil samples to see if I need to add anything, but they should be here soon. I did a preliminary at-home soil test, before I dropped the samples off at the County Extension Office, for comparison. If it was accurate, I shouldn't have to add much more than a little lime.
The tomatoes were moved out to the greenhouse today. Tomorrow, I'll pot them up to the next size, as they are getting way too big for the pots they are in now. Still have about three weeks before I will feel confident enough with the weather to plant them out in the garden. The Cherry Tomatoes in the self-watering buckets are doing great, already about 3' high. A wide row each of Broccoli, onions and potatoes have already been planted. Planning on planting 2 more rows of potatoes and a row of Sugar Snap Peas tomorrow.
I worked on the perennial garden the other day and fluffed up some empty rows for the new herbs. The strawberries are starting to leaf out. I'm going to add a heavy layer of mulch on top of the Asparagus to keep it from coming up too soon.
Things seem a little slow in getting planted out in the garden, but I'm juggling dates to time everything so that it starts coming in the week we start deliveries.
Posted by Robin
@ 10:06 PM CDT
I'm still chugging along starting seeds. Actually, I have become obsessive about it. There is just something immensely rewarding about watching things grow. Have I told you this before? Well, I said I was obsessed. I'm planting extra seed to guarantee we have plenty of vegetables to share, plus extra to allow for seed or seedling losses. So far I've only had 2 trays of seeds that didn't germinate. But a fresh pack of seeds in new trays replaced the failed trays. A few seedlings bit the dust. My fault...I had the trays sitting at just the right height to be nailed by Samson's tail.
I wasn't too sure about growing Artichokes here, so I started 50 seeds. All are doing well! Way more than we need, but what the heck. Artichokes typically don't produce till the second year, after going through a winter. There's a technique to get it to produce the first year. The seeds are germinated and the seedlings raised for 6-8 weeks, then chilled for a couple of weeks, to trick it into thinking it had gone through a winter. If all goes well, we'll have Artichokes this fall.
I've started moving cold tolerant seedlings to the greenhouse. The less tolerant ones will remain in the house, nice and warm, until the night time temperatures stay above 50. Trying to avoid having to run a heater out there, so that we can keep our expenses down. A savings that we pass on to our members. Luckily, we have good southern light in the house, so we don't have to provide additional lighting.
I've started seed for the following flowers: Himalayan Poppies, Red Poppies, Nasturtium, Yellow Marigold, Petunia, Coleus, Aster, Phlox, Larkspur, Forget Me Nots, Sweet William, Balsam, Zinnia, Bachelor's Button, Baby's Breath, Purple Coneflower, Penstemon and Apricot Beauty Foxgloves. Still have a number of other flowers to start, but I ran out room. We'll have a beautiful selection of flowers for the weekly shares.
Not only am I being obsessive, I am also addicted. Gardeners are like kids in a candy store when they find a garden center. I tried rationalizing that I didn't need any more plants, but...but...but the prices were too good to pass up. Garden centers are such enablers! Of course I walked out of there with new plants. I now have three Azaleas, one large Jasmine, six peonies, and 4 rose bushes to plant. In addition to the 100 Gladiolas bulbs, I've yet to plant, or the other 500 I still want to order..Don't know where everything will be planted yet, but I'll find a happy home for them somewhere in the yard.
Now that the temperatures are starting to come up to where they are suppose to be, we've had just enough rain in the past three days, that we haven't been able to plant anything in the garden. No worries, though, as delivery doesn't start for 7 or 8 weeks. Just another reason for starting so many seeds early. By planting mostly transplants in the garden, we'll be gaining a few weeks on the season.
Hopefully next time I can start telling you about everything we planted in the garden. Till then...
Posted by Robin
@ 11:29 AM CDT
Yes, spring is almost here! I saw my first Robin of the year yesterday. The sun is shining, The temperatures are close to the normal average. New growth is peeking out from under the dead foliage of last year's flowers. Won't be much longer...
The Early Golden Ace Cabbage, Snowball Cauliflower and Catskill Brussels Sprout seedlings are doing well. The Bright Lights Swiss Chard is beautiful, even at this tiny stage, with the red and yellow stems. The American Flag Leek seedlings look a little wimpy. I haven't grown them before, so I don't know if this is normal or not. I'll be starting another two trays of 72 today anyway, so I'm not too worried if the first tray doesn't do well. Leeks take 150 days to mature, which is why I'm starting them so early. The first tray of Broccoli still hasn't germinated after a month. It usually takes 1 1/2 to 3 weeks, but the temperature may not have been just right or it might have been a pack of old seed. Obviously, my checking on them once an hour didn't help either. I'll be starting another tray this week.
The first few years we owned our place, we concentrated on establishing bushes and trees, both ornamental and fruiting. We started with a hayfield and have been slowly "landscaping" it. We spent two summers building the soil in the gardens and putting in the Asparagus and Strawberries, plus Gladiolas, Peonies, Roses, Daisies and Hostas.
This year I'm adding lots of flowers. I'll soon be starting seed trays of Baby's Breath, Bachelor Buttons, Coleus, Phlox, Asters, Larkspur, Forget-Me-Nots, Dianthus, Sweet William, Cleome, Sweet Pea, Balsam, Pansy, Holly Hocks, Cosmos, Morning Glory, Zinnias and Sunflowers. Next year we may be able to offer bedding plants to our members.
I made a lot of entries this last few days, but I think this one brings everyone up to speed, as to what we are doing in preparation for the CSA, and how things are progressing. From now on, I'll probably add new entries just once or twice a week. Once things start greening up outside, I'll post a few pictures. There just isn't anything of interest to share at this time.
We still have a couple of memberships available, so if you know of someone who would want to join us, please pass our info along.
Posted by Robin
@ 09:18 AM CST
We'll have several peppers available this summer. The sweet peppers include the following bells: California Wonder (green, turns to red), Big Red, Chardonnay (yellow), Purple Beauty, Orange Sun, Diamond (pale yellowish-green), Gator Belle (green) and Quadrato D'Asti Giallo (yellow). The two other sweet peppers are Pimento (the same red pimento used in stuffed olives and pimento cheese) and Cherveno Chushka (a Bulgarian Heirloom, traditionally used for roasting). The hot peppers include Jalapeno, Cayenne, Hungarian Hot Yellow Wax (turns to red at maturity) and an Anaheim pepper Big Jim (perfect to use for Chile Rellenos). We might add a few more peppers, if we run across anything interesting. I'm thinking we probably need a couple of salad peppers.
We have a few bean varieties now, but again, I may add a couple of more. We have 2 string beans: Contender Green Beans (stringless pod) and Yellow Wax Beans. The shell beans include: Henderson's Lima beans (aka butter beans), Speckled Calico Lima Beans and Cranberry Beans (slightly nutty flavor). Although these shelling beans are pretty tasty, we'll probably only include them 3 or 4 times over the summer and you will need to shell them. It's easy to do, but we just won't have time to shell enough beans for our entire membership. Kids enjoy doing it... at least the first time or two.
As with the shelling beans, peas are quite time consuming to shell. For that reason, we will only be growing Pinkeye Field Peas (similar to Blackeyed Peas, but tastier) and Sugar Snap Peas (with the edible pods). If you aren't interested in the Pinkeyes, no problem, as we are growing them not only to eat, but also to enrich the soil. The Sugar Snap Peas are wonderful in many dishes, or sauteed as a side dish. They are used in a lot of oriental dishes.
These are the peppers, beans and peas we'll definitely be planting, but as I said, we may add a few more, if I hear of anything that I think would be a welcome addition. Anticipated planting dates in the garden are April 1st for the peas and April 15th for the beans. I started the bell peppers two weeks ago and those seedlings are doing great. I'll start the rest of the sweet peppers and the hot peppers tomorrow.
Posted by Robin
@ 07:18 PM CST
I have to confess, I haven't really used much in the way of fresh herbs in the past. I did add some fresh Rosemary to a Pot Roast one time and it was amazing. Al likes to experiment when he cooks, so he uses a lot of different dried herbs. However, when I did bring in fresh herbs from the garden, he would try them. Now that we're growing fresh herbs, I'm sure we'll be using them a lot more! We'll include a couple of small bunches each week with your weekly share, and let you know how to use them.
We have transitioned the original garden to a perennial garden. It will be so much easier to have everything that comes back on it's own each spring to be enclosed in the same garden. This is the permanent home for our asparagus and strawberries. We also have Sweet Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, Tarragon, Chives, Rosemary, and Lemon Balm in this garden that we planted last summer. I'm starting seed trays today of Lavender, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Curled and Plain Parsley, Cilantro, additional Chives, Dill, Genovese Basil (Italian), Chamomile, Summer Savory, Winter Savory and Old English Thyme. Don't know how to use them all yet, but we'll learn together! By the way, what isn't used fresh, can easily be dried for future use.
Along the front of the perennial garden are wide beds full of Gladiolas, Iris and Peonies. These are wonderful as cut flowers and will be included in a bouquet with your weekly shares, as available. If you don't have one already, you might be on the lookout for a taller, sturdy vase for them with a 3"- 4" opening. Thrift stores generally have them under $1. I've also used a tall jar sitting down in a wine bottle cooler or a pretty pitcher, or a half gallon jar with a wide ribbon tied in a bow around the neck too, and that's really pretty.
Posted by Robin
@ 10:20 AM CST
I want to remind everyone that because we are a small CSA, we can offer a much more personal service to our members than most CSA's can. You all are our customers, but we are your "farmer". Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Since we've been picking up seeds here and there to add to the seeds I collected and saved from the garden last year, I figured I better go through all of the seeds and make sure we had everything we needed. We're going to have a great selection of fresh food this summer! We have 40 different vegetables, with over 83 varieties. Thanks to some dear friends who have sent some Heirloom seeds, we also have 39 different tomatoes, 12 different peppers and 7 different beans. We'll probably only grow about 20 different tomatoes this year. I thought a potluck cookout with tomato tasting would be a good mid-summer get together.
Now for the update...I'll be posting at least once a week, as I start or plant seeds through the spring, listing the individual varieties. This is just the beginning. We have 72 tomato plants started. These include Cherry Tomatoes, Yellow Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Akers West Virginia, Arkansas Traveler, Early Girl, Boxcar Willie and Big Beef. I'm pretty sure we'll have Cherry Tomatoes when we start delivering mid-May. Artichokes just sprouted (remember we haven't grown these before, so this is really exciting to me), Green Goliath Broccoli, Catskill Brussels Sprouts, Early Golden Ace Cabbage, Snowball Cauliflower, Golden Self-blanching Celery, Garlic (variety unknown, but these are from my garden last year), Early White Vienna Kolrabi, American Flag Leeks, California Wonder Bell Peppers (red, yellow and green), Jalapeno. Kennebec Potatoes (large white), Red Pontiac Potatoes (small red), Yukon Gold Potatoes (medium yellow) and Bright Lights Swiss Chard (do you want to know it's related to spinach?). Most of these won't be ready till June or later, but they need to be started early.
The biggest complaint of a CSA is that the first few weeks are little more than lettuce and greens. We don't want our members to ever feel like that. By juggling starting dates, using the greenhouse, plus frost protection in the gardens, we feel we can have a really nice selection even in the first few weeks of the season. No guarantees, but we're shooting to have a good lettuce mix, green onions, radishes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, carrots, swiss chard, sugar snap peas (edible pods), asparagus and strawberries in the early weeks. And of course the greens, like spinach, kale, etc. If it looks like there might be an abundance of produce for any week's share, I'll let you know what can easily be frozen to use at a later date. Also, don't be concerned about getting a lot of vegetables that you don't like or don't want to sample. We won't add but maybe one uncommon item each week.
Until next time....
Posted by Robin
@ 10:05 AM CST
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