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.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Little of This & That

Pinal Peak Jan 22, 2017
We had a pretty sunset yesterday evening; I was going down the driveway just in time to see the sun highlight the mountains. A good bit of snow up there.

rainfall week ending Jan 22, 2017
In the past week we've had 2.1 inches of rain. We sure need the moisture but I wish it would spread things out a bit. It's raining again already. Can't we save some for June and July?

Leek Seedlings
I haven't grown leeks before but I grow garlic and onions so shouldn't be any real difference. The main difference is planting the leeks deeply and hilling earth up around them when they get bigger. That is what makes a long white stem.

Parsley seedlings
In spite of garden books predicting it taking a long time, my parsley seedlings are germinating, only about 10 days after planting. I think I saw a speck of green in the sage tray too.

Scarlet Kale seedlings
Can't wait to see what the Scarlet Kale is like. This makes 4 varieties of kale this year!

new layer
I don't think the new girl laying quite gets the idea of what the box is for.....

I bought the book Gaia's Garden a couple of years ago. This is a great introduction into the concepts of Permaculture. There are some great projects and ideas to help you get started with becoming more self sufficient, resilient and sustainable around your home and in your garden. If you don't know, Permaculture is described as a design science. Things are designed so that the wastes of one system feed another. Remember in Nature there is no such thing as garbage. Only humans create garbage. Permaculture design principles can be used to design any system, from an urban homestead to a city to a large company. When thinking about something new around my place I ask myself if it fits into the Ethics of Permaculture: Care of the Earth, Care of the People, Share the Surplus

Gaia's Garden, Second Edition

from: Chelsea Green Publishing

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Week In Pictures

#73 a 2016 pullet was Champion English and Reserve Large Fowl Safford, AZ 
Last weekend I attended the Safford Poultry Show. I was pleasantly surprised that my Buff Orpington pullet #73 was judged Best of Breed, Best English and Reserve Large Fowl. There were not that many birds shown in the English class, but there were 108 large fowl show, so not too shabby.

Mount Graham, Jan 14, 2017

Mount Graham Jan 2017

Mount Graham was covered in snow. Can you spot the observatory?

My daughter shows off the marble size hail
I got home and unloaded in time for a little storm of marble size hail.
Sunset Jan 14, 2017
Followed by a really pretty sunset.
uh oh

twisted a 6x6' chain link panel

The storm however did a number on the compost chickens pen. It even twisted a 6'x6' chain link panel out of plumb. I had to leave it out and rearrange the remaining panels.
Ameraucana pullet's first egg
One of the June hatched Ameraucana pullets started laying. Her first egg was this tiny one.

Broccoli coming out
Later in the work I pulled out the broccoli bed and planted some lettuce mix in it's place.

Pinal Mountains Jan 21, 2017
This weekend we have had a lot of rain and have been under a winter storm warning. It's stopped raining for a bit but we have more rain and snow coming. I love that we are getting much needed rain but I wish it would spread it out a bit. Some parts of our county are under a flood watch now too.

There isn't too much run off at my place yet, but the winds have taken out the low tunnel. The plants are all hardy and can survive freezing just fine. The tunnel is just to help them stay a bit warmer so they grow faster. I will deal with it when the weather clears up a bit.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Farmer Friday

carrots and radishes
Today was getting ready for market day. Pulled some rainbow carrots, although most of the ones that were ready were white, there were a few orange, red and purple ones, along with a few radishes.

Red Russian Kale
Got the first picking of kale from the hoop house. This is Red Russian, also known as Siberian and Ragged Jack.

Red Mizuna Mustard
Picked a couple bunches of Red Mizuna Mustard. There is some left, but it's going pretty quick.

Picked some lovely cilantro. I love this stuff. I even munch on it as I work in the garden. It's like addicting.

DiCiccio Broccoli
I picked a couple last bunches of broccoli. The side shoots are getting really tiny. If I was just picking to eat myself I would leave the plants a little longer. But most people was something bigger than your thumb nail. So next week out it will come and something new will be planted. Lettuce mix, perhaps.

Rainbow Chard
The Rainbow chard is still doing well. Some of these plants were planted a year ago and still going strong.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Planting in the New Garden

adding purlins to the low tunnel hoops
Well my supplier didn't get my EMT conduit in yet but I remember seeing some laying around somewhere.... So a check of the junk piles yielded just enough to finish the first bed in the new garden. Mmmmmm looks like a couple of issues. Partly these aren't connecting because the ground slopes a lot from one end to the other and partly because under the compost the ground is as hard as concrete.

my trusty 8' iron bar
So off to find my trusty iron bar. The pointed end is just right to make the holes deeper for a couple of the hoops so they go into the ground a  little further.

purlin on, ends taped to protect cover from rubbing
You can buy special connectors to attach the purlins to the hoops and I probably will get some; they will help make the framework more rigid. In the meantime some baling wire (aka tie wire) did fine. Along with some Gorilla tape on the ends to prevent abrasion of the row cover on the end of the purlin.

wind.... grrr
It was a beautiful sunny morning, so calm and so still..... UNTIL I rolled out the row cover! Of course the wind started up the instant I went to put the cover on the hoops.

with 2 pieces of row cover
So I found some clamps and got it fastened down. Only to discover that either I should have pushed the hoops farther into the ground or I should have ordered wider row cover. What I have is not wide enough to cover the hoops with enough slack on the ground to weight it down. So for now there are 2 pieces of cover on these hoops.

Once all of that was settled, I got busy planting. Some baby pak choi, collard greens and broccoli. I'm thinking the pak choi and collards will be ready to pick in about a month. The broccoli will probably be about 8-12 weeks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Potatoes and More

kale seedlings under lights
The past few days I've been cleaning up my grow light set up. I have some heavy metal shelves that will take 3 shop lights on each shelf. I picked up some more light fixtures and now have 2 shelves with 3 lights each (before I was just running 2 fixtures per shelf but that isn't enough to keep seedlings from getting leggy). I like to start a lot of seedlings, even those you might direct seed outdoors, inside under the lights. I have more control of temperature and humidity and often get much better germination. This also give me time for crops outdoors to mature and the beds readied for the next crop all while the next crop is already growing.

For example I seeded 2 flats of Red Russian Kale into soil blocks about the first of December. When they filled the blocks with roots I potted them into 4" pots and set them out in a plastic tunnel. A couple of days ago I finished pulling all the carrots out of a bed. Today I cleaned up the bed and got it ready for the kale. In a couple of weeks the kale will be ready to start picking off the outside leaves. But if I had waited and direct seeded the kale today, it would be about 8 weeks before it would be ready to pick.

Red Russian Kale ready to transplant
Also this week I've been getting out all the seed potatoes that I ordered for spring planting! The best size to plant are small potatoes or pieces of potato with one or more eyes that weigh about 2 ounces. (that's the size of a large hen's egg). So there were a few to cut up, but most were about the right size already. I put the cut sides up for a couple of days to get air circulation and dry off, then I will turn them over. Pre-sprout (called "chitting") potatoes in a cool area with some light. If it's too dark and warm the sprouts will grow long and spindly and won't make good plants. I set each kind in a box with it's label so I won't mix them up at planting time! These will go into the ground in early February.

Royal Purple
All Red

All Blue
Belinda is  yellow inside

setting up drip lines on a new bed
In other news I have the first bed in the new garden space ready to plant and got the drip lines installed on it. I am waiting for my supplier to get in some more 1/2" EMT conduit so I can finish the hoop set up. That way I can put frost cloth on as soon as I plant. Not only will it help keep it warmer on cold nights, it will help keep the birds out too.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Farmer Friday

left 4 eggs from the bantams and a olive egg from a compost chicken
After taking a couple weeks off for the holidays tomorrow we'll be back at the little market in Superior, Arizona. So today was mostly about getting things picked, washed and packed for that. The little bantam hens I was given have been laying about 4-5 eggs a day. They are small eggs and go in my 18 count cartons. Most of the compost chickens, being older hens have taken the winter off so I was surprised to find this pretty olive egg in their nest box this morning.

Rainbow carrots
I finished cleaning out a bed of rainbow carrots. I'll probably plant lettuce there as soon as it's ready to replant. Only one more bed of carrots are left.

Baby Mizuna Mustard
I picked a couple bunches of baby Mizuna Mustard. Its frilly cut leaves are really pretty with the red and green color.

Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, is a multi-purpose plant. While the flavor is not to everyone's taste, once you get used to it, it's addictive. It's chock full of vitamins and minerals so it's good for you too. It grows very well in cool weather, but won't even sprout once the heat sets in. I like to grow patches of it all over the yard and let them bloom. In the spring they feed the ladybugs and butterflies. Then they make tons of seed. That seed is another herb known as coriander! I love to add a few to my pepper grinder for a different taste. The entire plant is edible, roots, leaves, stems, flowers and seeds.

Lancinato Kale
Lancinato Kale is also called Dinosaur Kale or Palm Tree Kale. It grows up a fat stem and since you pick the leaves starting from the bottom, you end up with something that does resemble a palm tree. 

DiCicco broccoli shoots
The DiCicco broccoli is still putting out little side shoots. These are so tender and yummy even raw. You have to be careful not to overcook them and make them mushy. As soon as they turn bright green they are done!

I also picked some Giant Red Mustard and some Georgia Collard greens, just forgot to take a picture! Besides the veggies I'll have some eggs and my daughter and grand daughter will bring their Peace &  Harmony brand all natural face scrubs and chap sticks.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Wet and Grey

compost chickens
The compost chickens have been doing well. We have made 25 piles of compost, each one roughly 4x4x4 ft. to start. The first two windrows are ready to plant into and the third should be ready next month when it's time to plant the potatoes.

So tomorrow they will get to move to a new area to make more compost.

sunset Jan 1, 2017
We had several days of rain to end the old year and start the new. I'm thankful for the moisture and hope this year is not as hot and dry as last.

There have been pretty sunsets but the days are kind of grey and gloomy. I have been productive on these rainy days however. I have been mucking out my office and seed starting area and getting the paperwork ready for tax time and the seeds ready for starting. Hopefully I'll be more organized this year.

gloomy Jan 2, 2017

A friend of mine decided he had too many chickens and gave me some of his. These girls look to be part silkie, judging by some of them having 5 toes and black skin. There may be a little frizzle in there too.  A couple of them may be Marans or Australorp or mixes of them. The little crested ones are really cute.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year

Sleeping Beauty Mountain Jan 7, 2016
Happy New Year. I thought I'd do a little review of 2016. A lot of things went wrong but some things went right and there were a few surprises along the way.

We had some snow in January.

hawk Jan 9, 2016
snow on the Pinal Mts. Jan 10, 2016

A hawk was hanging around but didn't get any chickens.

and more snow.

Sunset Feb 2016
February brought longer days and pretty sunsets.

apple blossom March 15, 2016
Cecile Brunner rose March 15, 2016

Creek side garden March 15, 2016
By March the apple trees and roses were blooming. In the creekside garden the garlic was trying to grow and the peas were coming along. This year should be a much better harvest as I've worked on digging the beds deeper, replacing rocks, caliche, ashes and junk with compost.

AZ pistache tree
Iris blooming March 24, 2016

The old purple and white bearded irises are dependable spring bloomers. This patch is along the driveway where they don't get any water but the rain. I planted quite a few young trees too.

tomato seedlings April 10, 2016

tomato seedlings April 10, 2016

By April the tomato seedlings, started under lights in the house were ready to come outside into bigger pots.

Sweet Magnolia snap peas April 10, 2016

back garden April 10, 2016

Also by April I was picking green and purple snap peas. The back garden, which became the main tomato garden was still full of weeds and junk.

Salad May 4, 2016
Iris May 4, 2016
compost material 
back garden May 2016
By May I was hauling compost material and working on the main tomato garden. The late iris were blooming and we were eating lovely salads.

new potatoes June 2016
yellow zucchini June 2016
By June I was digging new potatoes and picking zucchini. Our local farmer's market had started up too.

erosion control July 2016
rainbow carrots July 2016

rainbow beets July 2016
peppers and tomatoes July 2016

In July I was up on top of the hill doing some erosion control, The garden was doing fairly well, carrots, beets, bell peppers, tomatoes and other things coming in.

Trombonccino Aug 2016
deep digging a bed Aug 2016

compost chickens
carrot with root knot nematodes

By August the squash vines were almost to the roof of the house and the Trombonccino were really going to town. I ripped out a bed of beans that never grew well and dug it out 18 inches deep. I discovered the problem. Besides the caliche and rocks there were ashes and junk buried under there. I put the caliche and rocks into the pathways and filled the bed with compost. August also saw the beginnings of the compost chicken project along with the discovery of root knot nematodes in a couple of beds.

Pregnant Tinkerbell Sep 2016
Swiss Chard Sep 2016

squash 2016
Tithonia Sep 2016

In September Tinkerbell had kittens. The garden was doing fairly well, with greens and squash coming in along with some flowers.

cole crops 2016

Also in September I finished up the old bean bed and planted kale, cauliflower and broccoli seedlings.

They have done amazingly well and there are still a couple of heads of cauliflower and some broccoli shoots to pick.

Superior Farmer's Market
Superior Farmer's Market

end of tomato season
Time to pick squash!

Apparently there are no pictures for October or the computer has hidden them somewhere I can't find them. In November I started going to a little market in the next town over, Superior, Arizona. While small it has been fun and the people there have been very nice. When a hard freeze finally threatened (a month later than normal) I picked all the Trombonccino, 259 pounds worth, not counting what I had picked before.

eggs Dec 2016
cleaning up the greenhouse Dec 2016

homegrown broccoli Dec 2016

Homegrown cauliflower Dec 2016

seed order, ready for spring!
seedlings, I plant something almost every week
In December I've been picking beets, carrots, greens, broccoli and cauliflower. I've been planting lots of greens, hauling manure and making compost.

The compost chickens have done a good job and the new garden space is ready. The chickens will move to a new area this coming week.

I'm working on getting more organized with seed starting and have a big calendar already marked with starting dates for the whole year.

A great thing about starting seedlings in the house under lights is that it gets them off to a good start before they have to contend with birds and bugs outdoors. It also helps me get more from the garden as the last crop can be finishing up while the seedlings are sprouting and growing. I can gain up to a month that way.