Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dahlias for the Bees

One of my friends grew a lot of dahlias this past year. When she dug them up to store for the winter, the ones she liked the least - all the cactus-flowered yellow ones - had produced more tubers than she was willing to keep.

However, those had nice, open centers that had made the flowers a favorite with bees, which meant she would be able to find a good home for the tubers without too much trouble. Lots of people want to help bees!

She tucked the tubers from those yellow-flowered plants into paper bags with peat moss, then put those in the car to deal with later. A month went by before she was able to pass them along. By the time the tubers made it to the office, some of them had developed problems. Luckily, a local dahlia expert -- my friend Maddie -- was in the office at exactly the right time. Of course, she was supposed to be working on her Senior DPA portfolio for 4-H!

It didn't take long for Maddie to sort through the tubers, trim away excess bits, and toss the bad ones.

Each bag held several plants'-worth of tubers, buried in the peat moss.

Some of the dahlia tubers were very obviously too far gone to keep.

She showed us the slimy innards of a tuber that had felt only a little bit soft from the outside.

This little dahlia tuber already has a nice big eye; it's a keeper!
One of the great things about my workplace is the number of plant-experts who stop by. We get to learn from all of them!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tracking the Harvest: October and November, 2013

The big surprise is that, in spite of the monsoon-like quality of much of the year and the ravenous appetites of the local chipmunks, my yard has managed to provide more than 400 pounds of food in 2013 to this point. Harvests in the next few months will be pretty lean, but that's why we put away surpluses of crops like tomatoes, peppers, and beans when we have them in summer.

I've also been enjoying the butternut squash, which, like the sweet potatoes, keep just fine on their own without any work in "putting up" the harvest. They just sit around in baskets until I'm ready to use them. A lot of the butternut squash has been baked until squishy, then whirled in the blender (without seeds and skins) with some almond milk, black pepper, and sauteed onion and garlic -- quick and easy butternut soup! It just requires the forethought to have put the squash into the oven.

Weights below for the past two months are in kilograms:

Tomatoes, ripe 2.4
radishes 1.3
okra 1
Peppers 6.15

Persimmons, Asian 0.65
Radish, winter 2.15
Peppers 0.55
Carrots 0.4
Bok Choy 0.75
Potatoes 0.5

October 10.85 kg = 23 pounds, 14 ounces
November 5 kg = 11 pounds

Running total January through November = 181.95 kg = 401 pounds, 1 ounces

Friday, December 6, 2013

What Gardeners Think About in Winter

Just to start, two more seed catalogs arrived at my house this week: Vermont Bean and Totally Tomatoes. This means that the planning part of the gardening year is here. I will hazard a guess that I am not the only gardener who already has begun thinking forward to the next round of planting.

This means thinking about which varieties to grow for each vegetable, about how much space to give to each crop, about the best-yet-cheapest ways to add organic matter to the soil, about the crop rotation sequence, about planning for seed saving, about seed starting and whether the fluorescent fixture needs a new bulb. Really, there is just no end to the garden thinking that goes on in winter.

There also, here in the South, are vegetables still in the yard to harvest and eat. In my yard, I have carrots, winter radishes, broccoli, and cabbage that are at a good stage for eating, and there are vegetables that didn't make it to maturity before the cold set in for me to watch and keep weeded, so they can return to growing as the soil begins to warm again in March. This all takes some thinking, too.

And if, like me, you have a parallel life as a spouse, a parent and a person who has a full-time job, all that thinking has to fit in the spaces between the rest of it. In my own life, the "spaces between" have shrunk down to just cracks for the moment -- next week, my youngest son graduates from college, and in three weeks my oldest son is getting married (THREE WEEKS!!!)--- but that doesn't seem to stop my brain from turning toward the garden.

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