Fall Goodies, Winter Prep

Butternuts, Delicata, and Tromboncino squashes are ripened and have been curing in the bay window sunlight for a couple weeks now. Having them there, just that abundance in eyeshot, is such a good satisfying feeling, it’s hard to describe.

The cucumbers have long since come down, and their patch of dirt oversown with Winter Rye. The tomatoes lingered on but were finally done in (mostly) last night with a sharp frost. I’ll be taking them down tomorrow and doing some gleaning. Still some salad toms alive in there, I saw today. So, maybe one more week of fresh garden tomatoes in my meals, until next year.

Fortunately, back in late July and early August, I sowed some Fall crops that do not care about frost. Like bok choi and Japanese turnips and golden ball turnips. The bok choi are actually getting a little long in the tooth, while the turnips are just starting to size up. I’m craving greens, so these don’t have long to live. Mwaaa ha ha aaa.

bokchoi

Then there are these lovelies.

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On the left, an immature brussels sprouts seedling. On the right, a red Japanese mustard. The mustards will be picked all Fall to be used mainly as a spicy wrapper for meat. They taste a lot like horseradish. The mustards will eventually be winter-killed. Except for the ones in the cold frame, which haven’t been touched yet (and won’t be until later in Winter when the garden is barren).

The brussels sprouts seedlings- I planted a dozen or so of them throughout the garden- will sit there all Winter long, looking miserable. Then in early Spring, when nothing else is happening in the garden, they will grow a massive trunk and begin pumping out hundreds of delicious tender flower shoots. I normally do this same process with hardy kale plants, but last Spring discovered by accident that brussels sprouts (planted ‘too late’ in the prior Summer) make even more delicious flower shoots than kale does.

Spring is nice, but it’s downright wonderful when you plan ahead to have extra-nice things then. Otherwise it’s barely worth the effort to live through the motherfucking Winter. If we  can be honest, here. Not that I’m living through Winter just for gourmet vegetables. But just that it adds to the whole Spring thing that gets our rocks off every year.

The potted Daikon radish were a stumble-y learning process. After heavily thinning a forest of seedlings a couple of times, I got the total number of plants down to five evenly spaced nice specimens in one pot about 20 inches wide by 24 inches deep.

The potted daikons did much better than the ones sown in the garden proper. They grew fast and plowed through the enriched potting soil, and are rising up out of it like radish towers. The ones planted in the regular garden are looking like they’re having trouble making a decent root in that heavy clay. So from now on, my Daikon go in pots, or maybe very tall raised beds filled with looser media than my native soil.

Daikon Radish in a pot

Straw has been shoved into this pot about five inches deep to insulate the crowns from any real bad freezes.

I have picked two 2″ x 12″ Daikons in the past week. They were the smaller ones. The three that remain are thicker at the head and still enlarging. I’d like to see how big they get! I filled the top of the pot with hay to help keep the exposed radish heads out of the drying wind.

Since they’re not truly winter hardy, I’ll drag this pot up onto the enclosed unheated porch when it gets really cold out, just to keep them in good pickable shape longer. A root cellar is really the more ideal environment for this sort of thing, but I don’t have a root cellar. I have a porch.

The porch is not ideal, but it’s what I’ve got.

The porch is already housing artichokes, lavenders, and potted strawberries. Some are parked in this cheap plastic four-shelf greenhouse thing. I took the top shelf out because the artichoke seedlings are very tall. Hope they make it through the Winter. Never tried to overwinter them this way before but have a good feeling about it.

greenhouse

Found it hard to say goodbye to these tall, bright Dahlias that sweet Nancy gave me. So they got rescued too.

dahlias

They look nice on the porch and I’m not ready to see them get killed by the cold just yet. There’s a rosemary and some other things on the porch too. More pots will be dragged in as the weather changes. Parsley. Cannas. Onions. By midwinter there’s quite a menagerie out there.

When Spring comes, I happily evict everybody. But right now, this is cozy.

Hugelkultur Pumpkin Mound

So I’ve got a big front yard area with some young-ish woods.  I want to push the woodline back a bit and get some utility out of the area, but it’s pretty far from my well.  So, to kill many bird with one stone, I built a hugelkultur mound.  First, I chopped down all the small trees and made a big pile, then mostly buried them under about 3 tons of pasture soil we’d had hilled up by a Bobcat, rich in manure and composted hay.

After that, I planted – overplanted, really – 180 jarrahdale pumpkin seeds in the mound and watered them in for a week or so with hand-carried water from the well.

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After that, I scythed the weeds around the mound a couple of times, but I mostly left it alone.  After a few months of neglect, it looked like this:

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From the south:

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Even had one vine grow up the oak tree (fruit fell when it got too heavy, survived the fall!):

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Today, just before harvest, it looks like this:

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Typical ripe fruit:

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I’m a short-fingered vulgarian, but here’s a size reference (wrist to middle fingertip: 7″):

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Now, I probably could have done a lot better on numbers if I’d made a series of smaller mounds and spread them out a bit, but I’m calling this a success.  I’ve got about 2 dozen full-size, ripe fruit out there with almost no work after the 30 hours or so of building the mound.

Update on Daikon Radish in Big Pot

One: Daikon in pot growing much much faster than the ones in the ground.

Two: The thinnings (just the green tops), when simmered in a little water with garlic and butter for about half an hour, are still as tough as a boiled catcher’s mitt.

Forget about it. If knotted together, they would make an excellent twine.

Wait for the roots to grow in Fall.

Past midway, now.

The Spring peas are wayyyy long gone, and we’ve already been eating our zucchini, tomatoes, and other classic Summer fare for weeks.

In every gardening season there are successes and failures. My second biggest FAIL this season has been the potatoes. To protect them from Colorado Beetles, I had covered that potato patch in spunbonded insect cover for nearly the entire season, finally uncovering them last week. I didn’t like what I saw. The vines had already died back quite a lot.

When I dug down under the soil, it was apparent that regardless of all the water I had poured on that potato patch all season long, our deep all-Summer drought had reduced my harvest to very little. The ground just four inches under my moist compost and hay mulch was like petrified clay powder, and the potatoes were few and rodent-chewed.

I gave up on the patch entirely, and dug them all up prematurely. Looks like I got less than fifteen pounds of spuds. A very poor return. But now I can turn that same area over to quick Fall crops and recoup something, maybe.

new bed

The site of the old potato bed, re-dug and waiting for compost and Fall crop seeds.

Fortunately, many vegetables can subsist on surface moisture in a bad season. Winter squash are good this way. This is my potting bench, now getting absorbed by the butternut squash vines. They have left the garden and are exercising their might against the lawn. Since our lawn is mostly weeds anyway, they may have it.

Although, I have had to redirect them this way and that, in order to save my potting bench and some things planted on it nearby.

butternuts

It is somewhat of a pain to not be able to walk directly from the bench into the garden, anymore.

There’s a great success to balance the crappy stuff; the cucumbers. I’m on my fourth gallon of pickles, and plenty coming along. This is especially gratifying since my cukes have been getting outright assassinated at birth by cucumber beetles for the last five or six years.

Scott built this tower for me. It’s about three feet wide and deep, and nine feet tall.

I lined it with grid fence. It was originally for my pole beans. But when I looked at the seed packet right before planting, I saw that I had accidentally purchased bush beans. The very day of planting. DAMN. The whole goddamn garden had to be switched around. And the cukes went on the tower, instead. Turned out okay.

Except that picking cucumbers now, is like being inside a crowded phone booth full of bees and spiders.

cukes

Pickles on the left, slicers on the right. Keeping them from constantly knitting together in the middle has been a real issue. And the bumblebees are real nasty cunts about sharing.

So, I’ve already started planting some Fall goodies in the cleaned beds from Spring. Golden ball turnips, hakurei turnips, two kinds of pak choi, some mustard greens, some sprouting broccoli, etc. all that sort of ordinary quick-happy cold weather loving stuff.

But the stuff I’m most excited about is a new thing, of course.

daikon

Daikon! In a great big pot.

Never grown daikon radish before. I saw one in the grocery a year ago and decided I had to try it. Plus, it’s essential in really good kimchi, which I also want to make.

This very fat, mild radish grows to very long lengths- like 18 inches and longer. I need to thin these specimens out (eating the thinnings of course) and leave just one, two, or three in the pot so that I can at least harvest a couple of one-foot long specimens in Winter. This pot will be dragged onto our protected but unheated porch for the Winter, for leisurely picking much later than nature would normally allow.

Just yesterday I planted some more daikon seed in the garden, in a raised bed. Curious to see how they do compared to the potted ones.

As the garden grows

The raspberries are just starting to come in. Unfortunately, I ate the most photogenic ones ..

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Lets peek into to coop …

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Oops! Sorry. Moving right along.

View of the tomato cages. Broccoli in front.

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These are purple beans but they turn green when you cook them. Which … disappointing. IMG_2827

My squash have turned into monsters.

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Lettuce and another view of my toms

 

Wait? How did this picture get included?  I have no idea, but HEADS WILL ROLL.

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Love these ones …

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Garden by the house and Moose helping me turn dirt. THAT  flower (hydrangea)  right there was one given to me by Hostpur and his loverly wife during Lapeerpalooza.

 

 

Ok, Carry on everyone.

 

Update for Lauraw:

Not such a great view because there are only a few blooming here, but if you lookly closely you can see how many unopened blooms there are. Plus – background sucks (tractor/etc)

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‘Bush’ Beans, My Ass

I know what a vine looks like when I see it

Most of these ‘bush’ or ‘no staking required’ veggies actually still benefit from support. Bush beans in particular tend to lean on each other and can then eventually flop on the ground here and there. After these started hugging, I pulled them apart and pushed these 4′ bamboo sticks about a foot into the ground. Then I gently curled their tendrils back, but around the sticks, not each other. They preferred to go counterclockwise up the stick, just like pole beans.

Bush Romano

Charging right along, be in flower soon.

Every year I seem to do something different to stake up the tomatoes. Prefab tomato cages just are never big enough to contain the monsters I grow. And no matter how simple the system, I can never keep up with a tomato pruning regime. So I guess I’m the type who prefers to figure out how to keep a giant topheavy monster plant up off the ground, than be out there doing all that fussy sucker-snapping and string-training that will surely get away from me when the garden kicks into high gear anyway.

Continue reading

Work in Progress/Garden edition

Of course …. it’s always in progress, so whatever.

 

IMG_2787Tomato arches, with lettuce, spinach and (failed) kale in that far bed.

ASPARAGUS!!!!  Hopefully next year I’ll have a nice crop. I think I just put it in last year.

 

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Toms, broccoli, more toms. Pay no attention to the random garden crap in the beds.   IT’S A WORK IN PROGRESS.

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The far bed is strawberries (new patch) and along the fence is mostly raspberries, except that weedish bush that I need to cut down. WIP*, remember?

 

(*work in progress)

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Purple beans and zuccini. And two – count ’em TWO – pop-up campers.  That’s another story and this is a garden blog. You can see the tail of my Lesbaru in this picture.

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Herbs, Kale, Cucucs along the fence. IMG_2791

 

This, my friends, is my goji berry spot.  I’m gonna get a lot this year. All those are goji. It took me three tries to get this going, and there is NO stopping it now.

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Spag squash along the one fence line, and some kind of “Wonder” bean along the other. My blueberries are just on the outside.

 

This is my little herb experiment. It’s needs a LOT of water, but I kinda like the rustic way it looks.   Underneath I have oregano and the blackberry bushes which keep coming up. I have to move them – maybe today.

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That’s it for the edible portion of my garden tour. Stay tuned for when I get the berry bushes all set up nice, and then – finally- a chicken and ornamental garden edition.