Monday 28 March 2016

Back to bread; Year 2 of "planting when ground can be worked" and other outdoor updates

I had great hopes of getting some seeds straight into the ground as the weather forecast for the long weekend looked promising.  Unfortunately we were hit with a mild ice storm which coated most of the garden beds.  I'm a bit out of practice as I haven't made my own bread (baguettes in this case) for a while but Dave @ Our Happy Acres has inspired me to get back into it and it was a fun thing to do with the nasty weather outside.

But by Sunday afternoon (a nice warm day!) I was able to direct sow some cool season crops.  I'm still testing this overall theory of "planting when the soil can be worked" - mainly because it was workable a week or so ago then iced up again.  So I guess there needs to be some consistency in the weather before starting.

Anyway, in what I refer to as a small "greens' garden, I've direct sowed the following yesterday:
  • spinach (reflect hybrid)
  • arugula (astro)
  • evergreen bunching onions
  • bon  vivant lettuce
  • easter egg radish
  • generic - rocket salad (arugula) 
And my earlier starts in the greenhouse are showing some sprouts for the arugula and radish.  Not so much though for the sugar ann peas.

Outside, I have the garlic started last fall which is still covered with mulch until I'm sure the worst of the cold weather is over with.  And some egyptian walking onions similarly covered with mulch.

And here is the usual flooding in the yard which prevents work in these two areas for another 6-8 weeks (but plenty of time for planting summer crops).

This area usually has snow into May due to shading from trees.

And some little signs of spring ... daylilies just starting to pop up.

And daffodils well on their way ...

And Sugar Ray is going outside more often (thank goodness!) and here he is looking wistfully outdoors and watching the birds.

I 'm feeling pretty good that spring has arrived ... officially yes, but the word is out on the technical arrival of spring.  But I'm sure it's all going up from here!

Thursday 24 March 2016

Seedling Update

I started a batch (batch?) of seedlings on March 5, so this is almost three weeks later.  Many of the tomatoes and peppers (the majority of the seeds) were successful but not all.  Although I have always found hot peppers to be the easiest to grow, I think the seeds I am using are just a bit old (2012).   Otherwise, most of what I planted are well on their way.

And, YAY, I managed to get a 72% successful germination on those pricey Xanthi peppers (8 seedlings from the 11 seeds).

Xanthi seedlings

Another batch of 72 peat pellets have been started.  The peppers are a second seeding due to poor results from the first seeding.  The broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are a regular indoor start and will be planted out later in May or June.  New this year for me is starting the kale (2 types), chard and kohlrabi from seed as these would normally be direct sowed.  I also have plenty of the same seed that I will direct sow as these indoor starts are just an experiment (the outdoor sowing has always worked fine).  I am just looking to get an earlier harvest.

Six pellets each of the following were started today:
  1. Jalapeno M Strain (the previous jalapenos haven't germinated well)
  2. Cowhorn hot peppers (same as jalapeno)
  3. Ancho peppers (same as jalapeno - what the heck, these weren't old seeds!) 
  4. Tiara cabbage
  5. Snow crown cauliflower
  6. Gypsy broccoli
  7. Jade brussels sprouts
  8. Di ciccio broccoli
  9. Nero di Toscano kale
  10. Kohlrabi
  11. Ruby red chard
  12. Scarlet kale
And more from the March 5th start includes this Italian lettuce leaf blend ... Sugar Ray decided to get into it a bit so it's a bit mangled on the right side.  I also have a similar container full of shallots that are doing quite well (not very photogenic tonight).

And how about those sweet potato slips?  These were placed into jars of water on March 6 so here they are at day 18 ...

This one in particular is doing well ... looks like a pretty bonsai tree.

We've had a last (I hope) kick of winter this week with about 4 inches of snow over the past several days (today was more about freezing rain).  But the coming Easter weekend shows some promising warm weather and I look forward to getting some work done outside!

Sunday 20 March 2016

Parsley From Seed: Day 15

Just so you know, for anyone who is looking to grow parsley from seed, it takes a while.  My Italian Flat Leaf Parsley seeds were spread over some potting soil and have been left under fluorescent lights 16 hours a day and kept moist regularly. 

I'm happy to finally see some signs of life!  Today (day 15) is the first sign of a sprout.  This is pretty regular from my experience of about 4 years growing it this way.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Well, I Guess I'm Growing Sweet Potatoes

This was absolutely an impulse decision.  Why can't I just make a garden plan and stick with it?!  These seem a bit fussy to me and I don't like fuss.  Like how I direct sow as much as I can (beans, carrots, chard) so I don't have to transplant.  On the other hand ... homegrown sweet potatoes!?  How awesome will that be?

Well, we'll see how it goes.  This is not exactly the climate for sweet potatoes.  Margaret at Homegrown - Adventures in my Garden is further south than I am and she gave them a whirl in 2015.  I was thinking even her area was too short of a season but not so as she had some success.

But I still had no plans.  And then I came across asterlanedibles at a seed exchange in Ottawa.  And she was selling sweet potatoes that she grew herself.  And she's even further North than me!  I couldn't help myself.

She said this area is fine for sweet potatoes but you need a short season variety and a very sunny area.  She sold me three sweet potatoes to start growing slips with.  They are Georgia Jet (or a shoot of Georgia Jet).

If they make it to the next stage, I will happily share an update.  In the meantime ... sigh ... I am sticking them in some water to grow the "slips" - which is just sweet-potato-fancy term for sending out shoots.

I watched a video showing someone planting actual sweet potatoes with slips "sprouting out of them" which seems no different to me than planting actual potatoes with "eyes that sprout".  So ... honestly and seriously ... just wondering if people make this seem difficult or what??

In the meantime, here they are at Day 9 with some roots (in the water) and some sprouts (above water).  Or are those "above water" sprouts the same size as when I bought them?

Love gardening.  Always.  Even when you don't know what is going on ... it's still super cool because, you know, earth and food and stuff.

Sunday 13 March 2016

Seedlings Started - Day 8

I've started my tomatoes and peppers.  I will also buy some other tomatoes for more variety as I can't be bothered anymore to start so many from seed! 

These are peat pellets - 12 rows of 6 pellets.  They are soaked with water to expand and then I put 2-3 seeds into each pellet (3 for older seeds as I don't know they will all germinate). At night, they are on the heat mat.  And for about 16 hours, they are under fluorescent lights which are on a timer.

After only a week, some have already started to sprout, mostly the tomatoes.  I've generally tried to keep each group of 6 pellets to a single type.  From left to right:

1) Jalapenos ... there are 3 pellets each of "Raam" and "M"
2) Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers - this is the only pepper that has sprouted so far (typically, this variety is always faster than any other pepper I've grown)
3) San Marzano tomatoes
4) Ancho peppers
5) Super Red Pimiento peppers
6) Mixed variety - Heirloom tomatoes (first to sprout)
7) Chocolate Cherry tomatoes (second to sprout)
8) Cowhorn Hot peppers
9) Kindle Lettuce - why lettuce in peat pellets, I don't know.  Will see how it works to transplant
10) Feher Ozon pepper
11) King of North pepper
12) Gypsy pepper

Also under lights are those pricey Xanthi peppers. Instead of my usual peat pellet approach, they are being "babied" a bit in their own 4-cell pots.

I've also started parsley (nothing to see yet) and these shallots which are just showing now.

And some lettuce - a mixed blend.

And just a few days ago, I started radish, arugula and peas in the greenhouse.  This is the earliest I've ever planted anything "outside" so we'll see how it goes with the greenhouse plants this early.  Normally, I would wait until later in April to start flowers and such, but I am pretty sure these cold season plants will be okay.

And I'm sure these darn pests are happy for the warm weather ... where do they hide all winter?  I've killed three of these in the past few days.  Squash bugs somehow get inside the house and stay inside all winter but I never see them until the spring.  And then they go outside and ruin my crops.  Sigh.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Lazy Saturday Morning Breakfast: Duck Egg Baked with Tomato Sauce and Feta


Grab one of the last jars of that delicious, and oh so precious, tomato sauce you made last fall that is sitting on a shelf in your cold room.  Throw a few tablespoons into a large ramekin.  Add a slice or two of feta cheese.  Crack in one of those duck eggs that you bought from someone you discovered on kijiji (because it is super hard to find duck eggs).

Bake at 375 degrees until egg is set (or maybe overcook it a tad bit because you got home late after going to the Brier the previous night to see Team Newfies take down North Ontario).  Serve with some slightly stale, re-toasted naan from the other night.  Turn on Netflix and enjoy.

Here I am (right) at the Brier with my friend Donna and some weird snowman mascot guy wearing a kilt. And yes, I'm smirking ... cuz it's weird.

Sunday 6 March 2016

Rhubarb Pudding

I was having dinner at a pub with some friends a while back and we decided to share some dessert - a lemon pudding cake.  I mentioned that I had always wanted to try baking a pudding cake. I guess there are different names for it ... it's where you have a sweet, wet (usually fruit) mixture on the bottom and pour a batter over top.  As it bakes, it creates its own sauce for the cake.

My friend Cathy mentioned her mom's recipe for a rhubarb pudding which I immediately asked for and tried the following weekend (a recipe she says goes back three generations to her great-grandmother Honsinger)!

The rhubarb was the last bit in the freezer from last year's harvest and I had just the right amount.  I used unsweetened almond milk as it was the only thing I had in the house and it worked perfectly fine.

Here is Cathy's family recipe for Rhubarb Pudding.  Thanks Cathy (and great-grandma Honsinger)!

1. Butter large pan. I usually use a glass 9 X 13 pan.

2. Make your cake batter and set aside:

Dry Ingredients: 1 cup flour, ½ cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, pinch of salt
Wet Ingredients: 1 egg, 1 Tablespoon melted butter, ½ cup milk

Beat the egg, butter, and milk in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until moistened.

3. Stir together 4 cups rhubarb, 2 cups of sugar, and 1.5 cups BOILING water; pour into the baking dish.

4. Pour the cake batter over the rhubarb.

5. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. You will be able to see the rhubarb bubbling in the bottom of the dish.

6. Let sit to firm up for a few minutes before serving warm with cold vanilla ice-cream. Mmmm!

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Working Out A Seed Starting Timeline

It is time for me to get some seeds started indoors under lighting to get an advance on the growing season.  In my climate, it would be impossible for many of my favourite crops to mature sufficiently for a harvest.  I definitely have about 4 months fully frost-free, and usually more like 4 1/2 months.

The last frost usually occurs around May 5 to 12.  But last year, we had a frost on May 22nd.  I was excited about the warm spring we were having and put a number of plants out in early May.  When the frost hit, I covered the plants up and most survived but they were weakened and did not do well.

The first frost is usually in the first week or two of October and last year it came on Oct 7.   So last year I had 138 days frost-free.  Now many crops can handle some light frosts, but definitely not tomatoes or peppers so they need an early start indoors to make sure I have enough time to get a good harvest.

This post is pretty much a repeat of this one in 2014, so I won't go into much detail.  The seed packets are split into piles of which get started indoors and which will be direct sowed when the soil is warm enough.

And the indoor pile is split into timelines.  The "direct sow" pile will also be split into timelines but that isn't necessary for at least another month or two.

For the indoor starts, I have one group which I need to get going very soon - this is basically all of the peppers and tomatoes (plus some herbs that take a while like parsley).  Then another batch is the cucurbits which will be started in late April.  And finally the brassicas which I won't start until closer to the end of May as these are meant to be a fall crop ... if I plant them too early, they will bolt in the summer heat.

And with the greenhouse, I have two new groups.  One contains the seeds that I will start directly in the greenhouse as soon as I can get in - lettuce and other greens mostly.   And then the seeds for all of the flowers that can be started in the greenhouse as well (marigolds, nasturtiums, etc.).

So now that I have that small chore over with, I need to get my grow area set up and get on with it.  Let the gardening begin!!