Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where was this rain all summer?

Love those Wolf River apples

And people question me when I say that I bag all my apples
Transplanted carrots - but they still taste good
The Cold Frame Manual - I am proud of my part in this publication

My light space in the basement
Mylar is great reflective material - easy to get and use
Some of the dry apples from this year's harvest

This has been a very rainy week. The sun shone on Saturday but for the most part the week was very wet. That was good for the winter rye planted last Sunday and for the lettuce and spinach seed planted then too, but not for any work in the garden or yard. I left the cold frame lids open for natural watering of the newly planted seed but had to close them after I decided that multiple days of rain was a bit too much for the seeds in the cool soil.

I harvested some of the carrots that were transplanted as seedlings and, yes, they did grow, but many of them have multiple root tips which is not ideal for carrots. The experiment worked but the multiple tips make cleaning a chore. Luckily there is no difference in the taste. I think I would like to experiment with deeper containers next season. Transplanting allows me to get my carrots in the garden in short rows and in multiple places and not have to struggle to get the seed to germinate which has usually been a problem in the past.

I checked today and the winter rye has begun to germinate, so by next week, I should see the shoots emerge from the ground. Also, I hope to be able to cover the hoop house with plastic this week. The forecast is not looking that good with more precipitation in store most of the week.
Once the hoop house is covered and when the spinach germinates, I will have to keep the soil moist till freeze up, when the seedlings will be on there own through the winter. I did occasionally toss snow inside on top of the spinach and the pictures back in earlier blog entries show what a great crop of greens we had in that space this season - so I hope to repeat the success.

I was pleased this week to receive copies of a publication that I wrote for the GOT DIRT program last year. The COLD FRAME MANUAL published for the GOT DIRT Garden Initiative was a excellent experience. Funded by the UW-School of Medicine and Public Health's Wisconsin Partnership Program in conjunction with UW Extension, the manual is available from the Brown County Extension office and is on line at this web site: or you can Google search 'Cold Frame Manual and David Parsons'. The manual gives directions for making what I think is the best garden tools one can have; a set of cold frames.

I have been bringing in what few plants I intend to over-winter into the basement. There, I have a set of fluorescent lights and trays that are my winter green space now that I don't heat the greenhouse. The lights, boot trays, and space blanket Mylar material make a cozy bright area. I have about a dozen florescent tubes that are on a timer for 16 hours a day. Now there are three geranium plants (a variety called Robin Hood miniature that I have had for maybe 20 years!) that will be my source for cuttings next spring and a few orchids, one bay plant, and later space for other forced plants. Also, florescent lighting is one of the best ways to grow African violets. They seem to love the light culture and make fantastic blooms in this environment - just ask the violet growers in your area. There is more than enough light for my orchids and geraniums and thiswill be my indoor green space for the next several months.

Happy Gardening

Monday, October 19, 2009

Till and Plant

This is White Borage - but I have not had these seeds for several years - Surprise
The last asters of the season
Searching for cardoon seeds - hair of the dog
There are those seed
Two heads worth of seed - I am really happy with this amount of seed
The maple seedlings healed in and the vole trap in place
This is the mint ring - a cast iron pipe that has been used in the past to contain the mint
The mint will stay in this planting for three years and then be dug and replanted
Lettuce planted in the cold frames
The Napa cabbage looks good so far - not too much slug damage

Even though the season is over for some crops planting for fall and spring crops goes on. This week as the weather got better I had time to finish the tomato clean up by tilling that part of the garden. The straw mulch was tilled under and I planted winter rye seed as a cover crop and to help my heavy soil dry out in spring. I dig a shallow trench down the garden to help drain the area in the spring. The rye should be up in about two weeks and it will continue to grow till hard freeze and then start to grow again next spring. This cover crop will be green fertilizer next spring. I have used this cover crop for years as a way to build my soil.
The hoop house was planted with four kinds of spinach and some fall greens. I also planted the cold frames with lettuce - Winter Density, North Pole, Arctic King and Italienischer. These were all direct seeded into trenches and covered with potting soil, watered and in the cold frames the lids were closed. I will check periodically to see how the germination is going. Hopefully things will move along as we should have cool but not cold weather for a while. I will cover the hoop house when the spinach germinates and that crop should be happy there for the winter and be the great greens crop for next spring.
I worked with the cardoon seed heads to separate seed from all the choke fibers. I wore gloves to strip the spiny part of the cardoon seed head and then I broke the seed head apart. Removing the seeds from the fibers was like looking for ticks in the hair of a dog. You need to rub your fingers into the fibers and locate the seeds and then rub them out. I used my soil screen to catch the seeds as I removed them. The seeds feel hard like a buried tick hiding in the coat of a dog - sorry but that's is just what the process feels like.
I buried most of the bonsai in one of the potato mounds. The maple seedlings that will be root stock for some grafting next spring and future bonsai projects should winter quite nicely in this soil banked with straw. I put a vole trap, as the picture shows, in the center as I will supply them with some poison instead of maple trees to feed on. Just as a matter of protection I put collars around the fruit trees and use several of the PVC baited traps to keep the vole population in check.
The napa cabbage seems to be slug free even though some holes appear. I need to put plastic on that cold frame to help this crop get to maturity.
I have been drying apples and making apple sauce this week too. The apples dry quickly in the food dryer. I seldom remove the skins as they are good fiber and nutrition. I quarter the apple away from the core, thick slice the quarters, dip them in a mixture of water, lime or lemon juice, and a bit of honey, drain them and put them on the trays.
My dryer will do six trays, about 8 to 12 medium to large apples, overnight for about 25 cents. I made apple sauce in my Fissler pressure pan - great pan - in basically the same way. I leave the skins on, quarter the apples, add a bit of cinnamon, ginger, honey and water and cook them up to pressure and hold for about 5 minutes and then let them cool. I hand pick out the skins from my sauce because I do not like putting it through a Foley mill. I think that make the sauce too homogenized. The video this week is what the garden looks like now that the winter rye is planted.
Happy Gardening

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Frost Does Some Things In

My 15 year old Maple bonsai in fall color
The cold frame landing done for this season
Wolf Rivers - they will stay in the plastic till eaten to prevent shrivleing
Footie apples
Bird damage to only one apple

The end of the the tomato patch
Cardoons tied up for blanching and later harvest
Garlic is a fall planted crop
I planted before I left for NYC and when I came back

Tomato seed saving - cut open very ripe fruits and press out the seed
Rub off the flesh
Wash off the flesh
Dry the seed and then bag and label the fresh seed

With our travels over, we are back in Wisconsin for much cooler weather. The forecast for the weekend past prompted me to harvest many of the apples. Several branches did real well this season. The apples in the "footies" seemed to be a success so I think that I will have to get a box of these things and try them on the small tree in the garden next season. The Firesides are in short supply this year as that tree had a major drop during this dry summer - too bad as that is my favorite fresh apple. We got a nice crop of Wolf Rivers as the photos show, and for the most part all the varieties produced from five to ten apples. Thus with officially 35 different varieties on three trees, we have a good supply of varieties. Some of the newer grafts only produced two or three apples but that was enough to make the first taste trials. I have been know to remove varieties that either do not produce well or do not pass the taste and drying test. Cox Orange Pippin was one that just did not do well and was removed in favor of using the branch to graft red fleshed apples like the Pink Pearl show in a previous entry.

The tomato and pepper crop were done in by the recent frost and with the tomatoes on the string method I was able to remove the plants in less than an hour of work, put them in garbage cans and will haul them off the the dump as I do not compost pepper, tomato, or cucumber plants. I took down the strings and sent that to the dump too.

The tomato crop was good this year with the 'Sugary' and 'Golden Rave' winning as the best flavor followed by the 'Valencia' and 'Persimmon' for yellows and 'Big Beef 'and my old standby 'Red Peach' for the reds. 'Red Peach' is a vigorous plant and the greenest and healthiest of all the tomatoes this late in the season. I think this would be a great producer in a more southern environment that would allow this variety to continue late into the fall as I had nice green fruits still maturing on this plant. I was most disappointed in the Black Truffle as it was flat in flavor. The Grubs and Green Pineapple were tasty but the fruit production was spotty so I will try the Grubs again but not the Green Pineapple. The basil in the tomato patch was a great success.

My peppers were generally a poor crop this season. 'Volcano' was a good hot and 'Big Bomb' was very HOT and had a good fruit set. The rest of the peppers were poor and between the slugs and earwigs the corp in general did not produce well based on the amount of space I gave them. Cucumbers were great for a while and then they got away from me and I think next year I will work on better spacing my plantings time-wise and work at better records of what produces the best fruit. For some reason several of my flat leaf parsley plants are going to seed already - they are usually a biennial, flowering next spring if they survive the winter.

The cold frames are back in the garden. I have Napa cabbage covered with one. The others are protecting lettuce. I want to cover the hoop house with plastic and then plant spinach in the next week. I also want to till the tomato patch and plant winter rye for a cover crop in that area.
I have included a photo series this week of how I save tomato seed. I use an old metal screen to collect and wash the seed. When the seed is dry I use one of my wooden labels to scrape the seed off the screen and into a container for storage. This year I will save Valencia and Red Peach seed.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, October 4, 2009

NYC Horticulture Adventure

Central Park view
Weeds will colonize bare ground anyplace and even here near Ground Zero
Mystery fruit of the week - pucker up
Street flowers - they are everywhere and very nice
A beautiful stand of American Elms in Central Park

Under the trees in the BBG
We went to the BBG especially to see this bonsai collection - very nice

NYC roof top gardens

Susan and I are in New York City as part of our 30th wedding anniversary celebration so the pictures are a bit of our sightseeing around the city and at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
Hope you enjoy them as much as we did seeing them.
Happy Gardening