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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Harvest, Spring Planning

Much as I'd like to be gainfully employed, I am seriously glad that I'm not a weatherman.  Today's forecast was for partly cloudy, with a high of fifty-two.  I never saw the sun today, and the thermometer on the deck didn't budge thirty-eight.

I spent the morning ordering seeds for this next growing season, and the afternoon was spent harvesting winter veg out of the beds, so that they'd be ready for Steve to help me get more soil in them.  Only harvesting took longer than I'd planned and I got tired.   And it started to rain a little, so we're putting off moving soil until probably Saturday, if the weather forecasters are right this time.

I got a few leeks out of the ground.  The little skinny ones were dug up and replanted in a bed that's been topped off; they were stuck in where I plan to plant zucchini later, so they're fine for awhile.

Then the rest of the Improved Dwarf Siberian kale was cut and the rest of the plant was yanked and composted, and the tops of the Flash collards were cut, and the remainder of those plants were yanked and composted.  I washed the greens carefully, especially the kale which is really curly, and stored them using my favorite way for greens and lettuces which is to roll them up in a length of paper toweling and store them in the fridge in a reused lettuce box.  I decided that I don't like the curliness of the Improved Dwarf Siberian because there are too many places for slugs, especially little bitty baby slugs, to hide.  I'm going back to Red Russian, which was the first kale I planted; it handled winter weather just fine.

Then I dug up the parsnips.  Holy cow, did I get a lot, and are they ever huge!  Some of them got roughed up by the shovel, so they were washed and brought inside- we'll eat those first.

The rest were laid in damp sand in a box, covered with damp burlap sacking and tucked into the garage.  They should be fine as long as it stays cold.

The parsnips were kind of a surprise.  I hadn't planned on growing parsnips this next season.  They take a really long time to germinate, and they take a really long time to grow; I was worried about leaving them in the ground so long , but I did so knowing that frost improves the flavor. Some of the parsnips I harvested today were really huge, but they cooked up just fine.  In fact, I roasted them in olive oil and coarse sea salt at 400F; they were delicious.  They were also not bothered by any pests and came out of the ground in perfect shape (except those that I gouged with the shovel).  I got a lot of food from a small area; they were definitely worth the space, so I'll be doing them again.

This gardening season, I'm continuing to figure out what's good for our yard.  I'm done with artichokes (can't keep them alive, they take a lot of room, and I'm the only one who eats them), and I'm done with celeriac, so done with celeriac (it takes too long and doesn't yield a root large enough to be worth the time and space). I'm also done with corn, but only for the time being just because my soil is still so crappy.  I can't dedicate box space to growing corn, and the boxes are where the good soil is.  So until I've improved the ground around here, no more corn.  I'm going to concentrate on plants that yields lots of fruits for the space, and trying new things.  I've also decided to stick to open-pollinated plants, so that  I can save seed.  I read recently that Monsanto is buying up small seed companies, and although I don't think they'll get all of them, it's time to  start learning how to save seed.  Fortunately, I already have Seed to Seed, and there's also good information in The Resilient Gardener, by Carol Deppe, which I've already reviewed here.

So the new things I'm trying this year are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, radicchio, filet beans, dry beans, peas, potatoes, and Sweet Meat winter squash.  I'd like to try Napa cabbage, but I can't find an open -pollinated variety; everyone seems to be carrying only F1 hybrids.

I am not repeating any of the tomato varieties from last year; the High Carotene were a huge disappointment.  They were supposed to be good for canning with a higher acid, but they were small and had a very high ratio of seeds to pulp. So no good really.  And the Burbank Slicing was okay, actually it was pretty tasty, but it's a determinate so they all came at once which is no good if you're looking for an all summer tomato.  It also took a very long time to fruit.  I sowed them in mid-February, and they didn't ripen until mid-August, which means it took six months.  So this year's canning tomato is Amish Paste, which I hope is coming from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, because I forgot to put them on the order and just emailed them to add the Amish Paste if they can do that.  Amish Paste are supposed to have more pulp to seed. If they don't do well for me, the next thing to try is San Marzano. For my salad tomatoes, I've ordered plants from Territorial; one is 'Beaverlodge' (slicer) which is an ultra early tomato (determinate- couldn't seem to get around that), and the other is 'Old German', which is a mid to late season tomato, and is indeterminate.  Hopefully, this will give me a good spread of salad tomatoes over the summer.

I'm kind of excited about the peas, not so much because of the variety ('Serge', Territorial), but because they're ready so early in the spring. Something to eat while I'm hankering after my asparagus, which needs another year.  I may try the peas later again next fall.  I had very good luck with the carrot varieties I chose for last year, which were all Nantes type carrots.  Nantes are short, so they were good for the boxes, but this year I'm also going to try 'Parisienne' (Baker Creek) because they are actually round little things, and are supposed to perform well in heavy soil.  That way I can try some of them in the ground, and maybe leave them there for winter harvesting.  Last year's green beans were good, as well; they were some Roma variety that I got from a seed stand.  They didn't do well later in the season though, and got pretty tough.  I'm not sure out of the beans I froze how many are actually going to be edible!   This year I wanted to try the filet-type bean, which I had in my CSA box back when I was getting a CSA box.  The filet beans were pretty delicious, so I'm trying 'Denver' (Territorial).  I'm also trying a dry bean for the first time: 'King of the Early' from Fedco.  I was going to try 'Black Coco', because Deppe really liked them, but they weren't available anywhere I looked.  Listed, but not available.  Fedco described the King of the Early as a delicious red baking bean, and as long as it's early, it should be okay.  One of the things that Deppe stresses in The Resilient Gardener is early varieties that allow you to get your crop in before it rains.  Beans need to dry down first.  This is my first try at a dry bean crop so we'll see how it goes.

The only other thing I'm kind of excited about is the radicchio.  'Treviso' (Baker Creek) is a long variety- it kind of looks like a red romaine.  I've read where you cut the head in half lengthwise, drizzle olive oil on it, and grill it.  I had the Treviso radicchio that way with a steak in a restaurant, and it was really, really good.  Last summer I learned how to grill a steak to perfection, so now I'm ready to add the radicchio.

The only thing left to order are the seed potatoes, and I'll do that tomorrow.

So there you have it; winter harvest, spring planning.


Miriam said...

Sounds like you're well on your way! I was using The Resilient Gardener for variety recommendations, too, and found it hard to get many of the seeds she suggested. But I did manage to find a few. My seeds have now all arrived, my garden plan is done, my planting calender is done. Now all I need is spring!

Paula said...

You're only a little bit ahead of me; I have the plan done, but not the calendar!

becky3086 said...

Very interesting. I really enjoyed reading all this. I have to agree with you on the Red Russian kale, so far I like it best but I haven't tried them all yet.
On the paste tomatoes, I never had luck with Amish Paste or San Marzano but I did try Thai Pink from Baker Creek and it always grew well here (even in my crappy soil).

Rae said...

I think you both need to give yourselves a big pat on the back, because you're both waaaaaaay ahead of me. :) Jealous? Whatever gave you the idea that I am jealous?

Paula, how did you build your planting boxes? I know there are a lot of different ways to do it, some likely better than others. With all the underground critters we have, I may need to go the raised bed route for some things. I've seen young tomato plants get sucked down gopher holes. Not fun.

Paula said...

Becky- I'll keep that one in mind if I have trouble. It seems like there are millions of tomatoes to try, especially if you're looking at the Baker Creek catalog!

Paula said...

Hi Rae- I used the plastic decking material that I pulled off our deck and two foot lengths of rebar, so they were fairly cheap. I didn't put anything under the sections that had rock over them, because they were pretty hard (and I hope I'm not going to be sorry about that), but I did cover sections that went over grass with hardware cloth. So far, it's done a marvy job keeping out the moles. I haven't seen evidence of gopher one around here (probably the competition for space from the moles), but that didn't keep me from putting chicken wire underneath my garlic, which gophers evidently love. Didn't see the point of taking a chance.

See my posts and for pictures.

I also have two boxes that were made from the long planter box the previous owner left, which was too close to the house. Those also have hardware cloth underneath them.

Amy L. said...

Thank you for reminding us of The Resiliant Gardener...I need to try and find a copy of that. Do you use a greenhouse to start your seedlings, or direct sow? We had a terrible time with tomatoes last year (actually, with everything but cool season crops), so I'd like to do row covers this year, and a greenhouse eventually. (I did Territorial's Oregon Spring tomato variety in 2009, and they were awesome...acidic and HUGE...and early!)

Anonymous said...

Just curious...exactly what is the secret to grilling a steak to perfection? I use my grill all the time and although I have tried many different things, I can't quite seem to get them as good as I know they could be. Oh, yeah, about that looooong ID - you can call me "Just" or "Girl" or JAGG would do just fine and shorten things up drastically. (I'm looking into acquiring a copy of the book too) Have A Great Day!

Paula said...

Hi Amy! I found my copy of The Resilient Gardener at Powell's in Portland, so I had a chance to thumb through it first. You might try your library, but I keep referring to mine, so having my own copy is nice. You might want to borrow it first, but you'll find it really useful for PNW gardening.

I started my seedlings in mid-February (which I've since learned is too early) on my bench in the garage. I started the everything in a multi-celled styrofoam tray, which I discovered I don't like-it's very hard to dig seedlings out. I much prefer the plastic six packs, and I bought a bunch of those from Peaceful Valley later in the year. The multicell tray wouldn't fit entirely on my heat mat (both the mat and the thermostat came from Amazon which I found had the best price at the time), so the warm stuff (peppers, tomatoes, etc.) was started on the side that was over the mat, and the cool stuff (onions, cabbages and lettuces) were started over where there wasn't mat. Later after sprouting, the peppers were transplanted into cardboard pots that I made from half a toilet paper tube. I also planted my cucurbits in the half tubes: summer squash and cucumbers, which were sown later. I've since learned that cucurbits do better direct seeded, so that's what I'll do later. The tomato seedlings were transplanted deeply into whole toilet paper tubes. If you plant tomato seedlings deeply, they develop roots along their sunken stem, so you get a strong root system. Later when I planted the tomatoes in the beds, they were covered in gallon milk jug cloches, and they when they got too tall for those, I put taller cloches that the previous owner left in the yard- they were tomato cages turned upside down, the prongs bent under, and then covered in plastic. Even with all this mollycoddling the tomato took forever. We had a pretty cold spring last year, though. Good luck with your stuff!

Paula said...

Oh! I also have a grow light over the bench....