Garden Wish List

Doesn’t everyone have a garden wish list? In (I think) order of wanting/importance (this is mostly so I can write this down and not forget!)

1) Bird Netting, to protect young plants from bunnies and my son. My 20 marigolds have been reduced to nineteen sticks and one marigold the bunnies somehow missed. My son also loves to dig holes. It’s a scary world out there.
2) Drip irrigation for garden beds
3) PVC framework around beds to hold bird netting and floating row cover, by season.
4) Hose Bib in the front garden area (because cutting into a water main isn’t SCARY, right?)
5) Something to contain my pile of hose in the backyard. The husband is thinking a box-type holder. I’m not a fan of the wind-up reels, so maybe a box we can just coil it in?
6) Some sort of trellis over the patio in the front- I have a thornless blackberry I want to trellis. I’m thinking a huge pot will solve the spreading issue, and the patio could use some shade. However, I’ve had it in the backyard about 5 years in a too-shady spot, and it hasn’t sent out a runner yet. Maybe it would be OK in the ground? It’s a triple crown thornless.

Leaf Mold Mulch

Big leaf maples, lindens, cedars, and ossia plums surround our backyard, and we never rake. We use the mowing machine to chop and bag our leaves, then store them in old trash cans for two years. (What fills four cans the first year can normally be combined into one or two the next.)

Today I took a two-year-old can from storage in the backyard and spread it over my four raised beds. I intended to do a fall/winter garden, but my dirt in a few beds needs serious rest and amending. My spring kale planting is still going strong, and will last happily through the winter for us.


Strawberries for Lunch

Strawberry season has arrived in our little patch of dirt. Juicy!


Tomato and Basil Planting

Today the tomatoes, basil, and tomatillos went into the garden. These tomatoes are Stupice, Ace, Gold Nugget, and Siletz. I fit 14 basil starts, in clumps of 2 & 3, around the edge of the box- basil and tomatoes are good companions for each other! This spot gets plenty of sunshine, so I hope to get good crops this year. The plants will be a bit squashed when they get bigger, but tomatoes like to grow that way. It’s still a bit cool for tomatoes- night are in the high 40’s and low 50’s, and tomatoes like nights over 55. But, they were getting big, and I am impatient!


Late Spring Garden Chores

We had AMAZING weather today, 70’s and sunny with a little breeze.  While my husband took our two youngest to the beach, my oldest (in disgrace, needing to make amends) daughter stayed home to help me with chores.  (In return for missing the beach outing, she got to play with her cousins tonight while her dad and I went out.  Otherwise, she would have run errands with us.  Boooring!)

She and I weeded bushels of weeds (mostly clover and wild mustard garlic, an invasive species around here.)  We mulched the strawberry patch and the potato can with straw.  I pulled up the 2011 swiss chard (it finally started bolting!) and we planted zucchini in its place.  I planted pole beans (calypso, royal purple pod, and scarlet runner) around my corn sprouts, and a few clusters of vine squash every few feet in the same patch- this is traditionally called a “Three Sisters” garden bed.  The beans will use the corn as a trellis, and the pumpkins will act as a living mulch to shade the ground (which will keep moisture in the dirt!) and to suppress weeds.  I’ve heard these can look VERY untidy, but I’ve never done it before!

I planted the corn a few weeks ago, to give it a head start before the beans start to climb.  Also, corn has an anti-germinant in the seed: other seeds won’t sprout if they’re near a corn seed.  (Which is why you can scatter fresh corn meal on the ground to stop weed seeds from sprouting, so I’ve heard.  A useful thing to scatter under a bird feeder!)  I built a another one of my quick hoop houses with wire fencing, Reemay permeable row cover, and binder clips, to try and keep the birds out of my seeds and raise the temperature a bit.  Our crows are fearless this year- I can’t leave my basket of seed baggies outside for a few minutes without someone tearing through and eating everything!  I lost some bean seeds, all my butternut squash seeds, and some pumpkin seeds.  My nephew lost his sandwich the other day, though, when he walked away to play with a ball.  Poor guy!  Now my girls start screaming “CAW CAW!”  every time they see a crow get near.  Knowing how long crows can hold a grudge (through multiple generations, long past the life of the original bird you offended) I’m a little leery of frightening them too much.  So I’ll just try and safeguard my seeds!

Spring Planting Time (And a Master Planting List)

We’ve finally had some honest to goodness sunny days!  The kids and I have snatched all the sunny afternoons we can the past week- my war against weeds continues (when I stop and ponder why ALL my weeds are on the invasive species list…I realize, isn’t that the definition of a weed?)  We finished the March plantings on Saturday (yes- March 31st.  I’m still totally counting it as on time!)  This week is supposed to be awful and rainy, but today was a shirt-sleeves and sunshine kind of day, so our April plantings are done now. April 2nd.  Considering that a good portion of my seeds are 2 and 3 years old, and have been stored indifferently in the garage or cupboard, I’m not too worried about being over run with plants.  Hey, maybe they’ll crowd out the weeds!

It was too cool this year for my greenhouse seeds to really take off in February when I planted them, so my tomatoes and cole crops are really behind.  I’m not too worried about the tomatoes, but we’ll see if I can get any cabbage and cauliflower harvested before the weather turns too warm.  I think next year I’ll sprout the seed trays indoors, then move them outside to grow- sprouting is the tricky part out there in February!

I realized the other day that I never posted my master planting schedule- reading through lots of different sources, I started seeing a pattern in when things are planted.  Here are my rules of thumb for seed planting around here (Pacific Northwest):

February: Start seeds indoors for your tomato family- tomatoes, tomatillo, ground cherry, peppers.  Start seeds indoors for cole crops: cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli

March: Start seeds indoors for basil.  Set out cole crops.  Plant cool, long-season, veggies in the ground (think thick leafy greens): lettuces, beets, hardy greens like kale and choi, peas.  Also potatoes and onions.

April: Plant root vegetables (carrots, turnips, radishes, etc.)  Plant flower seeds. 

May: Plant hot season veggies- beans, corn, cucumber, squash

June:  When nights are above 55, set out tomatoes/peppers.  Could be early July.  (For more info on how I do tomatoes, see this post.) 

July: Work backwards, and plant what you planted in April for Winter harvest- your root vegetables can be stored in the ground, with a cover of straw.  

August: Now plant what you planted in March (cole crops, non-bulbing onions like green onions and leeks)

September: Quick crops, like lettuce and spinach you’ll harvest young, and radishes

October: Garlic


What to do with Green Tomatoes

We have a bumper crop of green tomatoes this year.  They were the only crop I managed to plant in a sunny spot, against an east-facing wall, and they grew like mad.  The romas destroyed their flimsy wire cages, they were so heavy with fruit.  The yellow pear and sweet 100’s made little grape-clusters of fruit, and the Early Girls made gorgeous round fruits.  We just didn’t have enough sun to ripen more than one or two of the slicers, and about 10 cherry tomatoes a day.

With the start of Fall, we’ve had lots of rain and cloudy weather.  If it weren’t for the rain, I’d leave the fruit on the vine to ripen as long as possible (until the first frost) but they’re so wet that anything that ripens just splits wide open, and fruit is starting to develop brown patches of rot.  The plants in the back, with weed cloth, are doing better because the water is mostly getting shunted away, but there’s not enough sun to ever ripen the fruit back there.

I’ve given away 2 big grocery sacks of fruit (I’d guess about 13 pounds each) to people planning on canning chutney and other sauces, and a few little sacks to folks who wanted some for their next stir fry.  I go out every other day or so and pull off any fruit with a hint of color, to let it ripen on my counter.  But the plants look terrible, with droopy, browning branches.  Definitely the end of the season!

We made this green tomato and potato curry last week, and it was good.  I don’t care for the garam masala in my cupboard, so next time I’d use my own curry paste, and would take care to mash ALL the tomatoes because the texture was a little weird.  But stir-frying these is definitely an option!  I’ll probably throw some, cubed, in the freezer for dinners this winter.

I have a “pickled green tomatoes” recipe I want to try out, from the Ball canning book, but I’m trying to think…if I made those pickles, would anybody eat them?  Seems like I should be able to find a recipe for salsa verde that uses green tomatoes, too.  Their flavor and texture is so similar to tomatillos, seems like that would be a great use for them!

What else would you do with green tomatoes?