My Edible Garden

I've been gardening for most of my life and have been a devoted fan of organic gardening the whole time. It just makes so much more sense to work in harmony with Mother Nature than to fight her. Besides which it is better for the planet and better for our bodies. Here you can see what I'm planting and harvesting, with gardening hints and resources thrown in for good measure.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Busy Busy!

Victorian style cloche
Spring is always a busy time of year in the garden. This year I'm busier than most because of the rapid warm up. We are hitting 80 degrees this week and things are growing fast.

In that greenhouse bed I cleared the other day I planted some more Hale's Best Jumbo cantaloupes, an heirloom variety. To help keep them even warmer for good germination I've covered them with this Victorian style cloche that my daughter gave me.

In the space around them I've planted chard on one side and Strawberry spinach on the other. Strawberry spinach is related to regular spinach and the edible weed called Lamb's Quarters. In fact it looks like Lamb's Quarters but in addition to edible leaves it has a strawberry like fruit. The seeds I have are a bit old, so we'll see if they do anything.

New Greenhouse Door
Last fall when I finished the greenhouse I didn't have any really good scrap lumber to complete a door on the west end, so I just covered it with plastic. It's been getting way too hot in there even with all the windows into the house open to pull out some of the heat. But I haven't wanted to pull the top of the plastic off yet, it is still under 50 degrees most nights. But it definitely needed more ventilation during the day. So I scrounged through the piles and found some wood and built a new door, covered with chicken wire. I also pulled the plastic off the other door. Now I can keep critters out but still have ventilation during the day. If the weather turns fickle I can tack the plastic back on both ends.

potted potatoes and celery

While I was working in the greenhouse, I pulled out the potted potatoes to live on the patio. Here you can also see some of the celery plants. This batch is in an old ice chest and apparently the soil isn't so great. They are stunted and yellow and not doing very well, so I'll probably feed them to the rabbits and rework the soil and plant something else.

Recycled storage containers and ice chests
I have a number of old storage containers that while they were in good shape, their lids are long gone. So here they are as planters, along with an old ice chest. I spent some time planting Snow White cherry tomatoes and Princepe Borghese, an Italian heirloom tomato for drying. I loosened up the soil in them, added some organic fertilizer and some fresh compost. Here on the stone patio it's a bit warmer at night than in the open garden, something I discovered during a late freeze one year. The tomatoes in the garden froze to death while all the tomatoes on the patio survived.

I'm linking up with Harvest Monday, a blog hop sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions. I don't seem to have taken any harvest pictures this week, but I've been harvesting my usual salad along with greens to cook like chard, red mustard, spinach and lamb's quarters. (super good with diced bacon and onions fried together then put the greens in to wilt) Also peas and of course eggs from my new chickens. I've seemed to have mis laid my calculator but a rough count looks like some where in the neighborhood of 30 pounds of produce picked and eaten in the month of March and a total of 20 eggs since 3/24. All four of the hens are laying now, so I'll probably be over run with them shortly.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Daffy & Tulip Update

Spring is here!
Last fall I did a little yard clean up and planted some daffodils, tulips and pansies, which you can see in this post

Now the bulbs are blooming brightly and the pansies of course have bloomed most of the winter. As the weather gets too warm they will fade out. I will probably replace them with small marigolds along the edge of the bed. In this photo to the far left you can see the artichoke plants I put in last fall have survived the winter quite well. Hopefully they will make some artys for me pretty soon.

In the fore ground, this clump of bearded iris is a lavender and purple tall bloomer. I got starts from a house down the road, I have no idea the variety but it is probably one that is at least 50 years old as my mother remembers them being there when she was younger. They will bloom later in spring.

baby plum; it's really only the size of a pea

In another area of the yard it looks like the plum trees escaped any damage from the snow as there are little plums on them. This picture is magnified a good bit, the plums are really only the size of a little green pea.

Arugula blossoms
And all over the garden the arugula is bolting with the warm weather. Some I just cut down a few times to feed to the chickens and rabbits and others I let go for volunteer seed and to provide blooms for bees and butterflies.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In the Greenhouse

Greenhouse Bed before clean up
Yesterday I did some work in the greenhouse. First this patch of peas, well apparently were not all Little Marvel, but mixed seeds (mmm thank you grand daughters!) Also since the side of the greenhouse curves a lot of them were growing up against the plastic and were impossible to pick and were getting frost bitten. I decided just to pull them out and feed them to the chickens. Here you can also see the Mexican Honeysuckle bush that is blooming. It was a volunteer and needs to be moved. I'll keep the onion, It's a Florence Red Bottle, the last of a clump that bloomed and seeded last year.

Greenhouse bed mostly weeded
Here you can see I'm almost done. Those are a couple of stunted celery plants behind the onion, which I cut and fed to the rabbits. In front of the Mexican Honeysuckle is some Giant Red Mustard. It doesn't get to be giant sized here because I'm always picking it.

Greenhouse bed ready to plant

After weeding and loosening the soil I added some fresh compost and the bed is ready for a new planting.

I tried to get the Mexican Honeysuckle out with all of it's roots but that didn't happen, part of the main root was broken off. So I cut the top back severely and put it in a pot. If I didn't kill it and it shows signs of life I'll plant it  out on the hill garden.

Mexican Honeysuckle cut back and potted up

Mexican Honeysuckle blossom

Peas in tubs in the greenhouse

At the far end of the greenhouse the Dwarf Grey Sugar peas are going strong. The birds got all of the peas planted outside in Feb this year and most of the Sugar Snaps and Bleushokkers planted in the fall didn't make it through the crazy weather, so these are about all the peas I have this spring.

They are however billowing out into the pathway a bit much and I look like a contortionist getting around them to the pots of lettuce, red mustard and potatoes down there.

Speaking of potatoes, my order came from the Seed Savers Exchange last week. After sitting around the living room a few days they were beginning to eye up so I went ahead and got them planted. I have a bed out front that does not have the very best soil but it's 100 square feet. So I've been getting it ready for several months for the potatoes. It's been double dug a couple of times in the past so basically I loosened up the soil and added some potash and blood meal, then 6 inches of leaves. A couple of weeks later about 25 pounds of coffee grounds, after than I added some more potash, blood meal and some Dr. Iron, an organic iron product and mixed it all together. I'm hoping that all of these amendments will help out that poor soil, which started out as streaks of caliche interspersed with layers of sand and gravel. We shall see.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Harvest Monday

Barred Rock
Another Harvest Monday, this blog hop is sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions and is a lot of fun, go check out all the gardeners sharing their harvests and gardens all over the world.

mmmm I don't seem to have taken any harvest pictures this week, but it was mostly more of the same, salad with many kinds of lettuce, chard, chickweed, lamb's quarters, arugula. Some more yellow turnips and a few ounces of peas.

More exciting is that I went on Sat. and picked up 4 pullets and a rooster. The rooster and one pullet are Buff Orpingtons, the other three pullets are Barred Rocks. Actually I suppose two of them are hens now, as I found 2 eggs on Sat. evening.

The chickens settled into their new home just fine. They even laid those eggs right in the nest box.

Of course don't you know that as soon as I get chickens, look what shows up. Actually there were two of these hawks circling the canyon making their eerie sounding calls and sort of playing with each other, perhaps getting ready to mate. I haven't had time to look up and try to identify them, anyone know? I"ll be adding some wires over the top of the chicken run and draping some bird netting over them, to try and discourage the hawks from striking at the chickens. Because there are way too many rabbits around here for them to eat instead!

bean seedlings

On March 10 as an experiment I planted some Royal Burgundy bush beans in my new cold frame. Despite freezing and snow last weekend, they are sprouting.

While going through my seed box I found some Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe seed, home grown from 2003. I planted about 50 of them in the cold frame, expecting, if I was lucky to get one or two to sprout. Many more than that are sprouting and I"ll have to thin them out or transplant them. Actually I'll probably just thin them out, I have a lot more seed!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Urban Farm Handbook

Carrots from my garden
It continues to amaze me how when I am calm, centered and serene, how many synchronicities happen in my life. Awhile back I joined a free online course in Urban Farming. I already know how to grow plants of all sorts. I mostly was looking for information on how to turn gardening into a business, how to figure out how much to grow of each thing and how to market. The course has been pretty cool so far, with a facebook page and an online forum, there are also email homework assignments. One of the books recommended for the course is The Urban Farm Handbook, which I have not bought or read yet.

Then, I entered a book give away on one of my favorite garden blogs, Northwest Edible Life. One of the picks happened to be The Urban Farm Handbook. Imagine my surprise this morning when I recieved an email that I was the winner! So I am doing the happy dance! Thanks so much!

Now you should also go visit Northwest Edible Life because she has developed a terrific resource for you, a wonderful gardening journal that has tons of options. You print out the pages that you need from the downloadable PDF, in the quantity that you need for your garden and put them in your own notebook. I'm still working on getting mine put together, but this is a great resource for record keeping. By keeping records of what you planted and where, along with how they grew and yielded, you will be able to fine tune your garden plans to get more produce from less work. You will also discover which varieties of plants and soil supplements are best for your garden.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Chickens are Coming

Future Chicken Area
Well I have really been missing my chickens. Fresh eggs, composting, insect & weed controlling chickens. So I've been working on this area, even bought a solar powered fence charger to add electric wires to the fence setup to keep out the dogs.

Watching Craigslist for Buff Orpington chickens, I found a lady reducing her flock, she had 6 BO pullets, just coming into lay, for sale. I was so excited I committed, even though the chicken house wasn't moved and the fence wasn't built. Heck I had a week until I would pick them up..... Then they messed with my schedule at work and now I'm hard pressed to get finished before Sat. morning.... I'm waiting to see signs of life at the neighbors then I'll walk down and see if someone can come help me move the chicken house. In the meantime back to work on the fencing.

I took this picture last week. The stone wall is where the steps are down into the creek bottom, then it continues as a retaining wall around this area. There's part of an old pallet fence which is staying put until the retaining wall is finished. You can also see my new cold frame here, made of a couple old glass shower doors and scrap lumber. Well, back to work.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fickle Arizona Weather

Well our weather has certainly been crazy this year. Yes I know I'm not the only one, I'm seeing this from gardeners all around the world.
The back garden on Sat. March 17, 2012

Saturday was a very nice day for working out in the yard and getting things done. Then the rain started. Actually that was a very good thing. It filled up the water tanks, so now I have a little over 400 gallons reserve again. In the past couple of days we've gotten 1.6" so I'm not complaining about that.

Early Sunday morning the rain turned to snow and we had some hard hail. The rain has been alternating with snow ever since. Although we did have some bits of pretty blue sky today, they were short lived.

Back garden under snow, March 19, 2012
Of course such wild temperature and weather swings are very hard on the plants. I have a feeling that the Mammoth Melting Snow peas might not make it. They just had their first blossom on Saturday, too.  It's been about 36 degrees all day today. But it's supposed to be back up into the 70's by Thursday.

Harvest Monday

lettuce & other greens in the greenhouse
Well, another Harvest Monday rolls around. This blog hop is sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions and is a great way to connect with gardeners all around the world.

Most of this week has been more of the same; more lettuce, chard, spinach, lambs quarters, chickweed, and sorrel in the salad, with two additions some days.

Claytonia and Mache
There is a little bit of Claytonia, aka, Miner's Lettuce, and some Mache, also known as Lamb's Lettuce. Miner's Lettuce is a crunchy succulent plant, basically an edible weed native to California. Lamb's Lettuce is a winter weed in grain fields in Europe. It has a soft filmy texture with an unusual sweet taste. Both volunteered in a bed where they were grown in 2009.

Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas with rat damage

The Dwarf Grey Sugar peas in the greenhouse are really coming on now. However, as you can see some dead branches in the picture. This is caused by rats chewing through the stems low down, killing the whole branch above. I have now trapped 11 rats in here since January 1. I think Ratatouille's whole family is living under my house!

Snapdragons and peas

Here are a couple of snapdragons in a hanging basket engulfed by the pea plants. I grew the snapdragons from seed last fall. I really like the darker pink/red/maroon ones and will take cuttings of those later one to make more of them.

Society Garlic blooms

The Society Garlic in the greenhouse is blooming again, a lovely mild addition to a salad.

Besides all of these things I pulled the last of the orange carrots and replanted the bed to lettuce and radishes and harvested some cooking greens.

It's been quite warm, in the high 70's here and I"ve had to keep the greenhouse open as much as I could so it wouldn't overheat. Then today I woke up to heavy rain, which turned to snow and then into pea sized hail! What crazy weather; we're expecting freezing lows the next 2-3 nights so I've brought all the tomato and tender herb plants into the house from the greenhouse to keep them safe.
Front sidewalk in the hail storm

In less than five minutes the ground was white. I'm hoping it didn't do too much damage to things outdoors.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Around the Garden

Yellow daffys and purple pansies
I thought I would just show a bit of the garden as it looks at the moment. Sometimes all I have time for is my Harvest Monday posts, so now you can see there is more!

In a front yard bed there is a dwarf Bonanza peach which I under planted with bulbs last fall along with some purple pansies. The yellow daffodils are blooming and look great with the purple pansies. Here is the post where I planted them, Daffodils, tulips & Pansies

My $2 Rose bush
Do you remember my How to Plant a Rosebush post? Here is that little $2 rose bush now. It's leafing out well and should bloom at least a little bit in a month or two.

terraced garden

I've been working on cleaning up and enlarging the terraces at the edge of the front yard. This slope basically faces northeast, so gets some early morning through mid-afternoon sun. I've planted some wildflowers,poppies, cilantro, snapdragons, sweet alyssum and clover in here along with bearded iris and three plum trees. That brush/manure pile in the front is over the sprouting stump of a honey locust tree which I'm trying to kill. It's the kind with vicious thorns on it.

west side

Here is the west side of the house, going along to the patio at the back. Not much happening here at the moment, but compare this to what it looked like in September, 2009!

cold frame and stone walls on the creek side
With the warmer weather last week I did a little cement work on the retaining walls on the creekside and built a new coldframe which uses two old shower doors I was given for the top. Needs a little refining, but should work for the time being.

This area is also going to become a new chicken/duck pen, with probably a little garden space. I will use the chickens to help make compost at the far end, then next year plant a small orchard of fruit trees and move the chickens to a new area to make more compost. When the retaining walls are finished I should have a space roughly 20x30 feet to work with here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Harvest Monday

home grown celery
Welcome to another Harvest Monday! Sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions this is a great blog hop to visit with gardeners from all around the world. (you don't have to be a blogger to go visiting, either).

With the lovely warm days and cool but not freezing nights the garden is really picking up, both out doors and in the greenhouse.

Besides my usual salad mix of lettuces, chickweed, lambs quarters, chard, spinach, sorrel, cilantro, I had a few mache plants this week too, just forgot to get a pic of them.

I cut one whole celery plant as a veggie for soup because it looked like it just might be trying to bolt. I haven't bothered with any blanching strategy on this celery, so I don't know if possible bolting or not blanching was responsible for the slightly bitter flavor or something else. But it wasn't bitter in the soup, so it's all good.

tiny broccoli head

The broccoli continues to put out side shoots but they also have just dime to quarter size heads on them. I've decided I don't really care, I just slice up the whole shoot, stem, leaf, itty bitty floret and all. Actually they say the leaves have more nutrition in them than the heads anyway.

snow peas

I've been picking a handful of snow peas every couple of days from the plants in the greenhouse.

I really love the Giant Red Mustard; a bit too spicy to eat raw in salad, it's wonderfully mild and sweet when steamed or braised. I've been picking mixed greens for cooking a couple of days a week. This photo show from left to right, Giant Red Mustard, a tend tip from wild Lamb's Quarters and some green chard called Perpetual Spinach. I usually chop them all together and braise in chicken stock, sometimes adding a handful or two of shredded cooked chicken meat at the last minute. Some times I also have kale in the mix.

Chicken and greens!

Yellow turnips, white & purple carrots, red & white radishes
There are still a few root crops in the garden, some Golden Globe turnips, some white carrots (maybe Belgian whites), some Purple Dragon carrots, radishes of several colors. The carrots were volunteers at the edge of a bed from plants grown last in 2009. I got busy and forgot about them....

And then I have literally hundreds of baby plants indoors under the lights, you can see some of them here in my post about soil blocks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Seed Starting in Soil Blocks

3/4" soil blocks; the basil sprouted in 2 days
I love both of my soil blockers, the 3/4" and the 2". They make it easy to start seeds indoors. This picture is a regular nursery flat, recycled, of course, with 200 of the 3/4" blocks. Two of these fit neatly on my germination mat under two 4 foot florescent lights.

(Click the picture to see a larger version) This batch has 4 kinds of basil, 3 marigold varieties (two of which are edible) along with some other herbs and flowers. Some of the seeds are really old and may not sprout. That's why I like doing them in these tiny blocks, if they don't sprout I haven't wasted too much space/time/energy. These tiny blocks are not meant for growing any plant for more than a few days, then they need to move up to the bigger, 2" blocks.

recycled salad container

When moisture and warmth are really critical I make blocks in things like this recycled salad container. I'll remove the plastic lid as soon as the eggplant seeds sprout.

Tomato seedlings germinate in 3/4" soil blocks

On another tray last week I started the tomatoes and peppers, these tomatoes need to move up to bigger blocks ASAP!

If you've never heard of soil blocks before, they are compressed blocks of peat based potting mix. They eliminate plastic pot waste and expense and provide an ideal environment for seed germination. For more information see my three part article on making and using soil blocks, "Seed Starting in Soil Blocks"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Permaculture & Chickens

Permaculture is not really just about gardening, but is a design parameter that can be used to design almost anything, including towns, businesses and even social areas or events. Since I got paid for some of my online articles and things I had a bit extra and decided to buy some new books. First was Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway. The other one I picked was Harvey Ussery's
Small Scale Poultry Flock. I've been browsing Harvey's blog and really liked what I saw.                                                          
                                                                sorry for the odd look of this post; I can't figure out how to make the Amazon iframes go where I'd like them too and put the text next to the box like I can with photos. But I think you get the point. My books should arrive by next Monday, I'll probably do a review when I'm done with them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Can You Guess What it Is? (NO, it's not a bee!)

Hover fly
This little critter was busy enjoying the sweet alyssum blossoms in the greenhouse today. It looks like a bee, but look closer, there's no stinger at all. One of thousands of look a likes in the insect world, it's a hover fly.

I think it looks a lot like this picture of Myathropa florea  I spent a lot of time checking out all the great insect photos on that site and learned some interesting things. While the larvae of some hoverflies are a pest because they eat roots and bulbs, others are a boone to gardeners because they eat aphids.

Hoverflies come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There are a lot of different kinds that come visit my garden in the summer time, but they are rarely still enough for a photo, being always on the go. Some look like wasps and some resemble small house flies. Please don't swat them or spray them. We need them, because they are helpful in pollinating our gardens and in controlling some other insect pests. Besides they don't sting or bite and they are pretty interesting to look at.
Hover fly on sweet alyssum


Harvest Monday

Golden Ball Turnips
I"m a bit late getting in this Harvest Monday post, have had a crazy few days at work. Harvest Monday is sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions. Join in the fun seeing garden harvests from around the world!

In addition to the usual mix of salad greens, which I'm sure you are getting tired of looking at, this week I harvested some of the Golden Ball Turnips planted last fall. The plants had gotten off to a rocky start, showing a lack of iron &/or nitrogen, but a couple of feedings of fish and seaweed helped them along and they are finally sizing up.

I also harvested another bunch of carrots, but I forgot to take a picture of them. I cooked up the turnips with their greens and some of the carrots in some chicken stock then added some shredded chicken. The turnips especially were sweet and tender.

The chicken stock was made by boiling up a 10 pound bag of leg quarters that I got on sale, removing the meat, then boiling up the bones with some bay leaves, onion and a a bit of celery from the greenhouse. This is my first experiment in growing celery and I was afraid that I planted it too late and that it would bolt before getting big enough to be useable. Celery is a bog plant and the four best looking plants are in a large tub
of peat based potting soil in the greenhouse. (I mixed potting soil and compost together and added some rabbit manure to it). Plants in other containers and in the greenhouse bed have not grown as large nor are they as dark a green. These large plants are making little offshoots and that is what I am harvesting right now. I tend to use celery more as soup seasoning than as a vegetable, so for future reference will probably continue to grow just a few plants in large tubs since that seems to be the best.

Do you remember that Yellow Marble tomato plant that gave me tomatoes in Dec & Jan? Well it's still hanging in there, putting out a bit of new growth and some blossoms. (If you are just joining me, you can see pictures of it in this post)
Yellow Marble tomato lived all winter
The other day I cut out the other, dead plants from the pot and clipped off the dead branches off this plant. That clump of leaves in the middle of the pot is a Stella d'Oro daylilly.  I gently loosened and removed it, I filled in the hole it left with some vermicompost then curled the tomato stem back up and around into the pot. Tomatoes will root all along their stems if they are touching the soil. I actually covered part of the stem with more vermicompost to encourage it to take root. We'll see how it goes.

The Yellow Marble after trimming
In addition I've been starting seeds in the house on the heat mat; tomatoes, peppers, lemon mint and others; I"ll try and do a whole post on that later this week.