Tag Archives: kale

Spring is sprung!

Some classic spring weather to start off our early spring planting.  It was exceptionally warm on the official first day of spring, followed by colder rain showers the next day, when we were scheduled to plant (of course).  But, it held off perfectly for us when it came to assembly time.  I dashed in and out between showers beforehand to survey and lay out some boundary lines for the planting.  Because I’m curious about soil temperature, of course, I measured it: 53°F, and the air temperature was about 54° when we planted.

A little soil prep before planting

It was wonderful to finally kick-off the garden season, and we were in high spirits.  A little weeding, some fertilizing, shoveling and raking it in, and then…..seed sowing!  To start off: a couple of rows of lettuce, a row each of Swiss chard, scallions, and beets, and a row split to spinach and kale.   The kale started growing so fast we were able to harvest 1 pound of it about the time we quit!  Just kidding.  The harvest was from some overwintering kale, that is starting to flower and needs to get used up.  Then there was a consensus to plant snap peas and some mesclun greens mix, which will be added during the coming week.

And now, for the patience part.

Two-thirds of the early spring planting crew...and Juniper nowhere to be seen.

Frosty garden limbo

Freezing fog has kept the area chilly, with few sun breaks, sometimes only an hour before dusk.  Still, it is easier maneuvering through the garden than in pouring rain.  It appears the kale survived the earlier arctic wave without protection…hooray!  Not that it is actually doing anything except sitting in limbo.  The soil temperature (at 3-inch depth) is still hovering between 38 and 40°.  Brrrr…

Christmas has brought us a lovely break in this monotony, with the sun breaking through by mid-morning; nippy day, with only 7 degrees difference between the high and low temperatures, but the radiance was welcomed by many.

A circus of birds paraded through the yard at times: a swarm of bushtits, a couple of goldfinches, chickadees, and yellow-rumped warblers, plus the usual raucous starlings.  The two resident hummingbirds were squeaking away merrily, zipping in to feed when the other wasn’t looking.

A new gift “for the garden” is a heat mat for growing seedlings.  It will fit perfectly in my kitchen garden window.  Now I can grow some chanterai (mini-canteloupes) and margarita melons.  Now to redesign the bed…..

Solstice greetings! It's sleepy time for the garden. Where's Juniper?

An arctic wave to end the season

The full moon on December 2nd heralded a phase of turbulence that has only eased itself with a slow return to more seasonal, wet weather.

The day was busy enough as it was, coming home from work to prepare a meal for friend Jack, just out of knee surgery.  Old Cedar-cat had been having a very difficult week since Thanksgiving, and there was always a good amount of ritual cleanup to do.  Meanwhile, we were warned of an imminent plunge of night temps, having already had a couple of frosty nights.  The lettuce and chard needed to come out, but I needed more time.  Neighbor Patty to the rescue, as if she read my mind!  With her help we plucked the lettuce and chard well after dark, leaving the leeks and kale to weather whatever might come.

The arctic wave extended well beyond its original few days, leaving us cold and dry (thank goodness, no ice) with night temperatures into the single digits.  It became too cold for frost, quite a rarity in these parts.  It will be interesting come spring to see what doesn’t make it through.  Though I kept them fairly sheltered, I hope the new pineapple guava seedlings in their containers make it!

But, all those positive ions that build up with continued high pressure get trapped down in the dense cold layer, and start making many people agitated, impatient, crabby, and extremely tired.  Where was our seasonal rain?

Relief was on the way as of December 11th, with a noticeable pressure shift and cloud cover moving in. The tricky part in western Oregon is maneuvering through the “transition zone” since freezing rain is frequently a visitor.  There was a quagmire of accidents once the ice formed during that night into the next day, but it passed quickly.  My skin in finally relaxing and feeling less dehydrated!

Juniper-kitty thought it would be fun to jump out the door per her normal routine, but didn’t bargain for the immediate skating she had to try out.  At first perplexed, she then thought it a bit fun, making tiny runs on the concrete to see if she slid.  However, that quickly became old as she became more intent on walking through the yard, where she had more traction on the soil.

Wouldn’t you know?  My camera decided to go on the fritz while trying to take some pictures.

A good time to list the bit of November’s bounty, and call it the final tally for 2009:

  • Lettuce:    6.5 (pounds)
  • Kale:         1
  • Chard:      3.5
  • Leeks:      0.75

Month’s Total: 11.25

Total season bounty:  579 pounds (rounded)  Well done!

Halloween Bounty

Halloween 2009

Happy Halloween!

A beautiful All Saints’ Day is dimming as I post our October bounty:

  • Summer squash:        13.5 (pounds)
  • Swiss chard:                 0.5
  • Lettuce:                         1
  • Beans:                           0.75
  • Peppers:                       2
  • Tomatoes:                  38.75
  • Eggplant:                     0.5
  • Beets:                           2 (tops & roots)
  • Winter squash:         46.5
  • Apples:                         1.5

Total for month:                109

Total season bounty:        568 pounds

Thank you plants, pollinators, and devas!

Bye-bye basil…..hello lettuce

While goldfinches feast upon sunflowers and nuthatches nip away at the suet, we have picked our way through all the squash, tomatoes and peppers, laying most to rest and ripen in garages and windows.

Final samplings of squash, tomatoes, and peppers.  Clockwise from yellow summer squash resting on top of darker buttercup squash: "yellow" pepper, spaghetti squash, delicata squash, patty-pan squash, with ripening tomatoes nestled among squash.

Final samplings of squash, tomatoes, and peppers. Clockwise from yellow summer squash resting on top of darker buttercup squash: "yellow" pepper, spaghetti squash, delicata squash, patty-pan squash, with ripening tomatoes nestled among squash.

My lone cricket still eeks out his chirps most evenings, letting me know that all the frost warnings are not quite for real…..just yet.  The predicted heavy rainstorms never materialized in our area, only a couple of short-lived squalls one day.  But, it’s so much easier to do cleanup when it’s a lovely, dry autumn afternoon.

The kale, lettuce, chard, and leeks are very happy with the current phase of mild part sun, part cloudy days, alternating with rain, and the nasturtiums that refused to grow all summer have never looked so lush…….

Mid-October transitions in the garden.  Where's Juniper?

Mid-October transitions in the garden. Where's Juniper?

But, it’s not over yet!  It’s not THE final harvest……we’re just getting growing on the fall crops….check back in!

September Bounty

The September pickings are in, just as weather decides it will actually be fall-like!

  • Summer squash:        40 (pounds)
  • Cucumbers                  20.5
  • Swiss chard:                18
  • Kale:                              25
  • Beans:                             4.5
  • Peppers:                         0.50
  • Tomatoes:                    51.5
  • Eggplant:                        1
  • Scallions:                        2.75
  • Beets:                              1.5 (tops & roots)
  • Basil:                               6.5
  • Potatoes:                        2
  • Winter squash:             23

Grand Total:         197 (rounded off)
(Slid on past the August total!)

Total season bounty:  459 pounds

Thank you plants, pollinators, and devas!

Emergency evacuation: pests out of control!

In a fast move to save the lettuce seedlings being savagely eaten in an outbreak of both aphids and Cabbage White Looper caterpillars migrating from the neighboring chard and kale, an emergency evacuation took place.  Thanking the plants for their extremely productive service, all kale and chard was removed, salvaging what little was decently usable as food, but discarding most directly into the waste debris containers.  This is what we get for “slacking off” in observation given our really busy schedules last week, while there was a burgeoning plague.  I had noticed a few tell-tale signs of building aphid populations on the kale, as well as white flies, but nothing had seemed in imminent danger. Then the Swiss chard seemed to become inundated with aphids almost overnight.  Evidently, behind that were lurking newly hatched Cabbage loopers, always unseen until they wreak havoc, stripping plants to their ribs in only 1 or 2 nights.  Even with eradicating the plant host-sources, and spraying Thuricide* on the lettuce, we could still lose the whole row, but hopefully not.  We’ll know in a day or two.

It was also good incentive to tidy up other areas in the garden looking a bit more distressed, removing the cucumbers and ‘delicata’ squash plants, and trimming back the sprawling cherry tomatoes.

"Looking good" yet hunry pests lurk in the chard and kale.  So, now you see us.....

"Looking good" yet hunry pests lurk in the chard and kale. So, now you see us.....

Free of aphids and ...........

.........Now you don't! And the lettuce seedlings are much happier.

*Thuricide is a liquid comprised of millions of spores of the bacterium Bacillis thuringiensis, which reproduce inside the gut of specific types of caterpillars, becoming fatally toxic in a very short time.  This is a naturally occurring bacterium that evolved into its specific function.

A comedy of errors

What would gardening be without some mishaps, failures, or faux pas to keep us humble? The mysteries of  “why did this happen”?  So, I am offering a sort of “comedy of errors” to keep us amused while the main part of the garden hangs in a sort of suspended equilibrium.

You’re looking at a 2-pound harvest of new ‘Cranberry red’ potatoes there in the next picture.  An exceptionally good amount considering nearly 1 pound of eyes were planted!  And the Yukon Golds  and Banana Fingerlings each yielded the same amount.  This is almost worthy of a booby prize!

'Cranberry Red' potatoes being dug up from growing bags

'Cranberry Red' potatoes being dug up from growing bags

I definitely don’t have potato production down (taking place in my house yard in deep, black, breathable “growing bags”).  I had a better crop last year, when I didn’t know much of anything except to keep adding layers of soil.  After reading up on some of their preferences, it’s possible that really hot weather hit at an early stage in their growth, which they don’t like, and I may not have kept them as moist as they like, given their well-drained soil mix.  If I were a grower I would be calling this a loss.  The potatoes are disease free and good looking, just tiny; the vines seem to have thrived early on, but after the really hot weather in July they started floundering.  My suspicion is they were nutrient-starved as I probably forgot to put in some fertilizer in first.

Upper left: Fingerlings (well maybe finger-nail-ings); upper right: Yukon Gold; lower: Cranberry Red

Upper left: Fingerlings (well maybe fingernail-lings); upper right: Yukon Gold; lower: Cranberry Red

Then, there are the “little peppers who could” or my “comedy team”.  Three little bushes pushing out orange peppers as if their lives depended on it (which is what a stressed plant will do).  Two of their neighbors grew out of their stupor and are each pushing out 2 or 3 full-sized peppers.  Hey, at least the nearby basil took off.  Actually, the stunted pepper syndrome has something to do with light availability, too, as they were shaded much of the day by tomatoes, come mid-July.

The comedy team peppers barely hanging in there 10 weeks after planting!

The comedy team peppers barely hanging in there 10 weeks after planting!

The comedy team peppers 17 weeks after transplant-Sept. 2009

The comedy team peppers 17 weeks after planting-still hanging in there, now orange!

The weather continues to yo-yo by 10-degree increments for the daily high temperatures. The lettuce, basil, tomatoes, and chard are growing well, while cucumbers are putting out their last fruits, and the summer squash pushing out their last little groups of flowers where the newest growth is free of mildew.  The now-giant kale is robust and still sweet, but is succumbing to aphid egg infestation, and difficult to clean.  I think our resident ladybugs scattered away some as the old corn stalks were removed.  A short row of purple bush beans survived the deer-browsing from 2-weeks ago and are delivering the goods, although their green bean companions got hit again last weekend, and aren’t long for the world after being half pulled out while still small.  For anyone unfamiliar with deer browsing on beans, they don’t want the beans, they want the leaves, which is great if the plants are fully matured and no longer producing.  (Time for a bigger piece of netting, now that our deer is getting more daring.)   Next it’s time to start sampling the spaghetti squash!  We humans, that is, not the deer.

September showers are good for….a change of pace

The weather devas decided that it was time to clear the air with a good rain for at least half of Labor Day weekend.  In anticipation of serious showers many tomatoes were gleaned the prior evening, to prevent splitting.  When the steady showers picked up on Saturday we knew it had been the right decision, even if the bushes now looked “green” without hardly a ripening tomato. It was a good chance to focus on inside food preparation, like making sauce, or starting up the dehydrator.  Not quite sun-dried tomatoes, but a close equivalent.

BowlofBigBoyTomatoes-2

Tomato rescue before rain set in....

A rainy day task - drying tomatoes for winter

A rainy day task - drying tomatoes for winter

It’s been a good change of pace, spending time with all the other inside jobs one neglects when spending most of the time outdoors.  Spiders of all sorts are quickly spinning webs, even in the bath tub.  After two days of good rain showers the garden looks refreshed, although mildew has set in upon the squash and cucumbers with a vengeance.  Kale and chard keep growing like gangbusters, the basil is finally getting really bushy after a few prunings for pesto sauce, and another crop of bush beans is just about ready. The good news is we are warming again in a few days to nearly 90°, so we can ripen more tomatoes!

August Bounty

The August pickings total as follows (in pounds):

•    Summer squash:    53
•    Cucumbers:             49-½
•    Swiss chard:              6-½
•    Kale:                           10-½
•    Beans:                         5
•    Peppers:                      ¾
•    Sweet corn:              19 (25 ears)
•    Tomatoes:                19-½
•    Eggplant:                   4
•    Scallions:                   1
•    Artichoke:                   ¾
•    Beets:                         1-½ (tops & roots)
•    Basil:                          2-½
•    Blueberries:              2
•    Potatoes:                   6
Grand Total:              182 (rounded off)

Total season bounty:  262

Thank you plants, pollinators, and devas!

Juba skipper on 'Cherry Profusion' zinnias

Juba skipper on 'Cherry Profusion' zinnias