Category Archives: Gardening

Garden 2015: Favas!

I’m excited to say the favas are here! And while I know this large colander, when fully processed, will only amount to about a cup of edible beans, I’m still totally stoked. There are quite a few pods left to be picked so these will go into the freezer once they’re shelled and peeled until all the beans are harvested.

The lettuce is still going gangbusters, and the zucchini should be ready to start harvesting in just a few days. I’m looking forward to stocking my freezer full of zucchini bread to eat throughout the winter–lightly toasted with butter. Yum!

The beets are much further along than I was expecting for this point in the year. I may even have enough for my first batch of pickles, which is exciting, and a little annoying because it’s supposed to be above 90 degrees for the next 2 weeks and I’m not looking forward to standing over a huge pot of boiling water for hours on end.

Garden 2015: The end is nigh

My cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower have been huge disappointments this year. Between the 3, I have only 9 plants currently doing their brassica thing in my garden. I was expecting 8-10 plants of each, so there are some pretty big holes that needed to be filled. Over the long weekend I decided to fill those holes with what I knew would grow–more lettuce, beets, and chard. I’m going to give the brassicas another try this fall, but for now go with what works, right?

In other news, I got my trellises built and set up this weekend! I’m very pleased with how they turned out, even if the supplies were ridiculously more expensive than I expected.

At this point in the season the updates will start tapering off until I start harvesting anything beyond lettuce. I’m relieved that everything is in and have extremely high hopes for the garden this year!

Garden 2015: Planting season is (almost) over

I am happy to report that 98% of my garden is in the ground! I have a few pepper plants that need to grow just a wee bit more, and I need to find a place to fit a few more pumpkins, but everything else is in. And I am thrilled its almost over.

This has been the most relaxed planting season I’ve ever had. Not having a job means I can take my time–a few hours here, a few hours there–rather than trying to plant the entire thing in one weekend. Planting takes so much longer than I ever think it will.

Here’s a summary of what all has happened since our last Garden 2015 post:

– Celery was a bust. The seedlings didn’t make it, and nothing has come up from the seeds I planted directly. So, I planted carrots in my designated celery spots. I like carrots more than celery, anyway. I’m not bitter.
– Red onions were a bit of a bust. The seedlings didn’t make it, but (!!!) my amazing neighbor Mrs. C. gave me some of her red onion sets, so I should be good to go. Seriously, she gave me over 40 sets!
– Tomatoes were oddly successful! At least so far. Not all of my seedlings made it, but the ones that did are the best tomato starts I’ve ever had. I’m trying out the trench planting technique and am hoping for tomatoes up to my eyeballs. I really want to can some this year for winter eating.
– Cauliflower/ Broccoli/ Cabbage/ Kale: Oh brassicas, you taunt me so! With Portland’s cooler weather, you’d think these cool-loving plants would be a breeze. But they toy with me. Only 4 of my cauliflower seedlings are left, 6 of my broccoli, 3 cabbage, and 1 kale. I did plant kale directly though, and I just counted 6 kale seedlets in my bed, so I’m happy about that.
-Cucumbers/ Zucchini/ Butternut Squash: All but the butternut squash have poked their first leaves out of their soil mounds. Exciting stuff! I’m really hoping to get enough cucumbers to make several batches of pickles (both dill and bread and butter).
– Radishes/ Fava Beans/ Arugula: All going gangbusters. In fact, we’re going to be eating the arugula with dinner one night this week.
– Chard/ Lettuce/ Spinach/ Turnips: The chard is a little slow growing, but I’m finally seeing little seedlets popping up. The lettuce and turnips are growing strong ( I see lots of salad in our future), but the spinach is a little “meh”. Only a few plants to speak of out of the 2 full rows I planted.

I love growing turnips. The greens can be cut several times and they'll grow back, which makes them a renewable food source!
Turnips are one of my favorite things to grow. The greens can be cut several times and they’ll grow back, which makes them a renewable food source!

I was able to thin out enough turnips to make a batch of turnip greens/ pumpkin seed pesto to put in the freezer. I love having stuff in the freezer I can base a meal around, and we eat pesto pretty regularly throughout the year. It’s nice to start reaping the benefits of a garden so early in the year.

Garden 2015: Planting season

The weather this spring has been unseasonably warm and dry for Portland, land of the perpetual drizzle. As such, this week officially begins my in-ground growing season for many of my plants. I’m going to hold off on planting my tomatoes and peppers, the nights are still a little cool for their delicate sensibilities, but starting this week I am slowly going to start getting my garden in the ground.

Four of my beds are already partially planted. This week I’m going to get my cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli starts in the ground and get some kale seeds planted as, for some reason, none of my kale starts made it. I’m still puzzled by this. Kale is usually super easy to start.

Once the brassicas are in, I’m going to run through my remaining seeds to see what will be hardy enough to withstand the cooler evening temps. My goal is to have everything in its proper place no later than May 2nd (except the tomatoes and peppers–I think I’m going to wait another week on those).

I’ve got a few garden tasks that I’ll need to take care of in the next few weeks, but the biggest is getting a trellis built for my fava beans. Their ruffly leaves are peeking out of the ground (Yay!) and I want to make sure I’ve got support in place before they get too tall.

I’m not quite ready to start the task of nightly watering, but the dry weather is forcing my hand, so I’m hoping to come up with a solution for that one as well. The garden is somewhat spread out over the eight beds, and I’m not certain an oscillating sprinkler will get it all in one full pass. Up until this point, I’ve always just gone out with a sprayer nozzle and given everything a good soaking. I’d like to be a little more hands off this year, as I could use that extra 20-30 minutes each evening. If you’ve got any ideas about this, I’m all ears. For the moment, a drip system isn’t feasible for us, but eventually that’s my goal!

 

Garden 2015: A few successes

Spring is always such a busy time around our yard. The lawn starts growing and before I know it it’s up to my knees, the blackberry vines start their take over, and as I weed my garden beds I find all the peanuts the squirrels buried in the fall.

This year has been no exception–seriously, I don’t know where those squirrels are finding all those peanuts!

My seedlings are growing quite nicely and overall I’d say my starts have been a success. My tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and cabbage are going strong and should be ready for planting at the end of April. The cauliflower and kale are a little more questionable, which is odd because I’ve never had any issues starting kale. Depending on how things shake out, I may plant a few extra seeds along side the starts just to hedge my growing bets next month. The celery on the other hand has been a complete and dismal failure. I planted 25 plants, got 3 “starts”, and those starts just disintegrated. I’m going to try direct sowing and hope for the best.

I did manage to get all but one garden bed weeded and composted last week, and the following seeds are safely in the ground: Turnips, beets, fava beans, radishes, arugula, carrots, lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach. I also covered the beds with chicken wire to keep the squirrels, birds, raccoons, and cats (ew) away.

I’ll continue to update as things start coming up!

Garden 2015: Restarts, weeds, and in the ground

Over the winter, Andy and I had a boiler/radiator system installed in our home. The base of operations for the new system is our utility room, which used to be the coldest room in the house, and is now the warmest. I thought the heat would be great for my seedlings, and I was right! The balmy heat in the utility room worked its magic much faster than I was expecting, and my seeds started sooner than I anticipated. I wasn’t prepared to transplant them into bigger pots as early as they needed so I decidedĀ  to restart a few seeds as the original plants (namely some broccoli and cauliflower) had gotten a bit leggy and I didn’t know if the root systems would be able to develop in the larger pots. Everything else “seems” to be okay. Now I just have to keep them safe from the cats. Much easier said than done. There have been casualties.

As we’re into the middle of March (seriously, how did that happen?), I realized I should probably get my cooler weather crops sown directly into the ground within the next 7-10 days, specifically my beets, spinach, spring turnips, arugula, fava beans, radishes, and lettuce. In order to get these lovelies in the ground, I’ve got to get my act together and do some major weeding. I’ve also got to get my hands on some good compost. Once those two things are done, I should be in a good spot. Thankfully, we’re gettingĀ  little bit of sun this week as weeding in the rain isn’t my favorite activity.

Garden 2015: Starts and specs

I promised last week I would share exactly what plants I started and my general garden plan, so here goes!

Tomatoes x 20 (8 different kinds)
Peppers, sweet x 5 (California Wonder Pepper)
Peppers, hot x 10 (Jalapeno and Pepperoncini)
Cabbage x 10 (3 different kinds)
Romanesco x 2
Broccoli x 10
Kale x 10 (Curly and Lacinato)
Cauliflower x 8
Celery x 25
Onions x lots! (2 different spring plus a batch of red. It’s hard to say exactly how many, but probably around the 300 mark. Onions start differently than other veggies.)

A little over a week and I already have starts for the following: Tomatoes, cabbage, Romanesco, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, celery, and onions. I’m days away from transplanting into bigger pots and trying to figure out where I can put them that gets plenty of light, but is away from the cats, because seedlings and cats aren’t a good mix.

The peppers and some of the tomatoes are being a bit stubborn. I’m hoping they’ll come up soon, though I don’t have any experience starting celery and I’ve never had luck starting peppers.

As for the rest of our garden (remember, I’ve got 8 beds to fill!) I’ve got a fairly large handful of seeds that will be direct sown once the soil warms up sufficiently. Here’s what I’ll be putting in the ground in the next 6–8 weeks:

Pumpkins (5 kinds!)
Fava beans
Bush beans
Carrots
Arugula
Beets (4–5 kinds!)
Butternut squash
Cucumbers (2–3 kinds!)
Head lettuce
Turnips
Spinach
Swiss chard
Radishes
Dill
Sunflowers
Nasturtiums

To be perfectly honest, I’m a little nervous. This is the largest number of plants I’ve ever attempted, and it will take some dedication to the cause to keep everything going . If everything turns out, we’ll be swimming in produce, and I’ll have a lot to put up so we can eat through the winter. If it doesn’t, well I’ll have to chuck it up to another learning experience.

 

Garden 2015: Starting seeds

My mom’s mom, and dad’s dad both had neon green thumbs. They could make anything grow. Growing up, my mom had a vegetable garden every year that I can remember. After Andy’s diagnosis, I knew that gardening was something I wanted to try my hand at. Nothing is healthier than eating something that was growing right outside your door just hours before.

When we bought our home 2 1/2 years ago, the biggest selling point was the half-acre yard. It had an herb garden, more fruit trees than we realized, and three existing garden beds. My first project was adding a few more beds. Five to be exact for a total of eight 4′ x 8′ garden beds. Over the next two summers I bought seeds, started seeds, planted seedlings, and held my breath. I had some successes–green beens and beets, hooray! I had some failures–why has that pumpkin been only 3 inches wide for the last 4 months? But I’ve learned something every year.

Heading into the 2015 growing season (Portland’s had a very mild winter), I wanted to share (and document) my garden process. I’m still tweaking things: Figuring out which vegetables I should plant for my zone, and which plants should be grown together and which should not.

I’ve been planning all week to get my seeds going, and today it finally happened. I’ll go into the specific details of what I started–and what I will be direct sowing–in a later post, but to give you just a hint, I started over 100 plants. It sounds like a lot, I know, but when you’ve got eight garden beds, there’s some room to fill.