Sunday, August 26, 2012

Forward Movement

I've been an organic gardener - doing the research and putting what I've learned into practice in my own yard - for a long time. Locating amendments and special "inputs" like seeds for cover crops on a garden-scale has been getting easier over the years, but there have always been items that had to be mail-ordered.

When the things you need suddenly are available in appropriately-sized packages in main-stream stores, that's a clue that a lot more people have become interested in the same things.

These cost way more than I would usually pay, but I couldn't resist. This is so great!:

I found these at the Home Depot in Kennesaw, when I was just checking the seed rack to see what was there. The cool season mix contains seeds for hairy vetch and ryegrass; the warm season mix has seeds for Austrian winter peas and ryegrass. (I like how they couldn't decide which was actually good for our area, so we get both!)  The packets each contain enough seed for 200 square feet of garden. With the easy-availability of these seeds, maybe more people will experiment with cover crops and find that they are a great help in the garden.

In other news - yesterday I attended a Small Scale Intensive Farming workshop, sponsored by Georgia Organics, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and the USDA Risk Management Agency. Andy Pressman, of NCAT and a farmer who uses multiple small urban plots as his farmland, was the featured speaker.

The morning was filled with discussion of the business considerations of small-farming, and the afternoon was filled with technical considerations, including what tools are best for what purposes in very-small-scale farming enterprises like his. 

Pressman's planting beds are 2 x 25 feet, and most of his "paths" are just 12 inches wide. With this tight spacing, tools need to be small and maneuverable. The biggest piece of equipment he uses is a walk-behind tractor by BCS (a European company). Everything else he showed us was hand-powered.

The seeder he demonstrated is the Earthway model that I have - I used it to plant my carrots this spring. He also brought along a whole assortment of hoes and demonstrated their correct use while talking about the benefits of each one.

While there, I met lots of great people who are all working on farming. Some are brand-new farmers, some are still in the planning stages, and some are fairly experienced. All in all, it was a great day!

Here at home, the cabbages I planted last week are doing well. I'm pretty sure they're bigger than they were when I saw them on Friday - I feel a little like one of those old ladies who exclaims to a child - "My how you've grown!"

And these are the carrots, seeded a couple of weeks ago with the seeder that my family gave me for my birthday this year:

I hope everyone else's gardens and gardening-knowledge are making as much forward progress!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Four Little Squashes

When I went out to check on the garden after work today, I realized that the little butternut squashes had changed. They had become both more tan and less shiny - indicators that the squashes might actually be mature, even though it is still fairly early in the season.
They've been growing for long enough, though, so I went ahead and cut them off the vine.

The NCSU extension publication Storing Winter Squash and Pumpkins explains that, normally, winter squashes will do better in storage if they first have a curing time of one to two weeks at fairly high (>80 degrees F) temperature and similarly high humidity.

I have found that butternut squashes, like sweet potatoes, get a little sweeter after curing, too. The good news is that my garage has just about perfect conditions for curing the squashes in, so after I am done admiring them for a day or two they will be parked in the garage for a couple of weeks, before being brought back into an air-conditioned space.

They won't sit around for long, though. When I have time, I will probably go ahead and roast them and then mash them to freeze for something like pie.

Elsewhere in the garden, plants are still producing. My house is still pretty much in chaos, and I couldn't find a pretty container/basket/bowl for posing my veggies in, so the photo shows them in the bag I had carried through the yard for harvesting.

It's not a huge pile of food, but it will still make a nice addition to our meals, to the pile of frozen veggies (bagged) in the freezer, and to the dehydrated veggies in jars on the storage shelves.

The tomatoes and peppers are assorted varieties. Underneath those are some Pigott Family cowpeas. We've already harvested a full quart of those (shelled-out and fully dried) Southern peas, but there are plenty more out in the garden.

As the cool-weather crops, the lettuces, other greens, carrots and more are making their slow beginning, it's nice to have the anchor of the summer crops still producing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It Only Looks Like Bare Ground

This is the space where the buckwheat was turned under to make room for the carrots:

The photo is from before the carrots and winter radishes were actually planted (I'm not always good about getting up-to-date-photos for the blog). The good news is that I can see seedlings! We've had some fairly moderate temperatures - considering that it's August - and several small rains, which have helped.

What I was afraid might not help at all were the big footprints all across the bed that I discovered on Monday, the day after the seeds were planted. Newly-planted seeds are more likely to germinate if they are kept moist, and I was going out to see whether they needed to be watered. Instead, since the ground was still sufficiently damp, I set out a lot of that foldable, temporary fencing to let people know that there is something in the garden - it isn't just an empty space.

You would think I would already have learned to defend the bare-looking seedbed in advance, because the space where I planted the bush beans also got some big footprints in it within a day or two of planting. You can't see the footprints in this photo, but the seeds seem to have weathered the boot-storm. They are coming up!:

In my dreams, everyone knows better than to walk across what looks like bare ground in the garden, but my dreams are unlikely to come true anytime soon. When even the obvious edges of the garden aren't enough of a clue that there is something special about the space, I can only hope that the boots quit tromping through before the seedlings are at a more vulnerable stage.

In other yard news, the gardenia at the front corner of the house was pretty seriously damaged when the tree fell on our house. The main stems were all split, so Joe went ahead and removed it. I will probably put another gardenia there, though, because I enjoyed that one so much. This is a not-great photo of the split stems:

The azalea next to the gardenia at first seemed to be only slightly damaged in the tree accident:

When we were able to get a closer look, after the gardenia was gone, it was pretty obvious that the damage was a lot more extensive. Looking down into the shrub, there were more of those split stems. When we cut that shrub down, the remaining full-grown azalea looked weird all on its own, so we cut that one down, too, and we will be starting over on the foundation planting. It's not a good time of year to be planting most bushes, but the house isn't completely repaired yet, so we have some time. Meanwhile, it will probably be a little easier for the workmen to move equipment and materials around - they won't have to worry about the shrubbery, and they might be able to stay out of the gardens.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What Comes of the Compost

Since we still are not 100% at home yet, we haven't had a good way to add to the compost piles that usually collect our kitchen trimmings, and we still seem to be generating plenty of odd little brown spots and stem ends. The good parts are going into either the crockpot (on loan from a co-worker - Thank you, Louise!) or the dehydrator.

Our compost is still collecting little bits of yard trimmings/weeds, but not nearly as much as usual, and the contents of our bunnies' litter boxes aren't going there either, because our bunnies are still with a friend. Right now, instead of having one compost pile that's growing while the other, more finished pile gets moved out to the garden, we have two dwindling piles. By the end of this weekend, there won't be any compost left in the backyard - just a little stack of wilting weeds.

We have become so accustomed to always adding to the compost piles that it seems a little weird, and very wasteful, to run veggie trimmings down the disposal at the hotel where we currently are being housed (not for much longer!).

I know, though, that there are plenty of people for whom saving organic material for the compost pile is a foreign concept. I forget sometimes that other people's lives aren't centered around gardening and all the daily behaviors that make gardening work.

However, it is great to hear about other people who not only are doing similar things but also working to educate still more people about using leftover/waste material in the garden. Not long ago at work I heard from a guy who is educating others about the usefulness of coffee grounds in gardening. He has put together an informational webpage and a little project to collect, dry, and distribute coffee grounds for use in gardens. It's a local Greenbean Project. I am hoping that his project becomes wildly successful.

A great thing about coffee grounds, especially as the season for collecting fallen leaves is almost here, is that coffee grounds are a good nitrogen source, which helps balance out the high carbon content of the dried leaves that we will all be dumping into our compost piles.

Meanwhile, the multiple seasons' worth of compost that have been added to my vegetable garden have been working their magic on the red clay, helping the soil produce good food for us, even though I haven't been out there tending to the watering and weeds every day like I would normally be doing.

The trombocino squash are beginning to produce for us:

The dwarf butternut has made several squashes, too. In a comic-twist, the squash fruits themselves are "dwarf," but the vines have sprawled ten-to-twelve feet. I was kind of expecting a reverse version of that outcome, where the vines were more dwarfed and the fruits more normal, but I am not exactly surprised by the reality. It's the kind of thing that sometimes happens with seeds and plants.

The buckwheat that had been acting as a place-holder for the last few weeks has already flowered, and I've turned that cover-crop under to get the area ready for the carrots. If all goes well, those seeds will be in the ground tomorrow.

Tomato plants are still producing, and the remaining plants look surprisingly healthy for this late in the season. These are Akers Plum tomatoes:

These are Wuhib, another plum/paste tomato:

We have a week of cooler weather coming up, and it will be a good time to plant some of the cooler weather crops. Germination will be a lot more successful than it would have been a week or so ago - the highs are forecast to be below 90 degrees F for the next few days. It won't hurt to have dug in the last of the compost.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dehydrating the Harvest

We (mostly my husband, actually) have been keeping the dehydrator busy in the last few weeks. The jars below are packed with the dried fruits of our harvest:

Most years we do more canning and freezing of veggies, but we have been working with a hilariously inadequate kitchen. The two-burner stove seems to do well with high heat and low heat, but we haven't found "medium heat" on either of the burners so far.

I have managed to burn more than one meal, and I've undercooked some things, so we are going to give canning a pass until we get completely moved back into the house, where the stove operates on natural gas and we have cookware that's more familiar. Our cast iron cookware - for example - is a lot more nonstick than the two pans and one skillet that came with this kitchen, and I'm not actually certain that a big water-bath or pressure canner would fit on this stove.

It's a very good thing that we were able to bring the dehydrator with us when we shifted into the extended-stay hotel! The poor Excalibur could use a break and a good cleaning, but it still has a lot of work ahead of it in the next few days.

Last year, a lot of our tomato-based sauces started out as dehydrated tomatoes and peppers. It looks as though this year's sauces will have the same beginning.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...