Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Ugliest Nosegays

I always wanted to use that word in writing.  That, and posy, just don't come up much in my daily life.  Anyway, the point of the picture is to share with you my google-informed attempt at rooting sweet potatoes.  Anyone tried this?  They say to half submerge them in water and they'll root/sprout.  So far, I'm wondering if they'll just rot.

Growing cottage cheese

Today I planted more tomato seedlings and nursed along the ones I put out recently.  The windy weather with 30% humidity is hard on the little seedlings, and it seems to be in moments like this that I lose my wimpy seedlings.  So today I cut the bottoms off a few dozen yogurt and cottage cheese containers and put one around each vulnerable-looking transplant.  Now my garden looks like I'm growing cottage cheese!  I hope they create a more sheltered little micro-climate that helps the plants transition.  I put in a couple "mystery" tomato volunteers from friend Cathy's garden.  Thanks Cathy!  We'll see what they become - she's betting a cherry or roma.  I also planted into the Topsy Turvy that I got recently at a rummage sale with a tomato start that I actually bought.  It is an heirloom called "Mr. Stripey".  Love the name, as does 5 year old DS.  The other one I'm growing just for its name is "Mortgage Lifter."  Do you think it will work?

I thought I'd update on my seedling outcomes that I posted on February 14, 2010: "I planted TONS of seeds to start indoors.  Basil, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes (6 types - Black Krim, Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter and Pineapple), cucumbers (lemon and gherkin), chard, squash (pattypan, portofino, zucchini - oops, no yellow crookneck?), lettuces and marigolds."  Of those planted the basil, eggplant, tomatoes, lettuces, and marigolds had a good success rate.  Of the peppers, only 25% took.  The cucumbers and squash sprouted but didn't survive long enough in their puny containers to get transplanted.  I recall it said something about "not recommended for starting indoors" on the label.  But, hey, what do they know?  They are just the experts, right?  Anyway, perhaps they have a point.  I have so many more seeds I want to get in the ground - actually wanted to get in the ground about 6 weeks ago.  I hope to have more updates soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garden Update April 2010, Part 2

Today I finally got some of the tomatoes that I'd started from seed in the ground.  I'd planted one about 2 weeks ago but the warm air dried it up into nothing.  I'm hoping that the weather will be less extreme in the next few days and these ones will make it.  I planted some Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Pineapple Tomato, Yellow Pear Tomato, and Brandywine.  I'm most excited to taste the Pineapple variety.  I also put some of my seedlings for eggplant in the ground and the one pepper out of four I started that has survived thus far.

About half of my snap peas are still blooming and growing strong and the other half is done.  Why?  Essentially the same location.  I wonder if it is disease or what.  Anyone know?

This Friday DS's school is taking a field trip to a dairy farm.  I think I'll bring a trash can to try to bring home some manure.  Should I just add it to my compost bin?  Anyone with experience composting cow manure?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finally got a canner!

I finally found a used canner!  On Thursday I went to an  estate sale and found a stainless steel stock pot that didn't list the size on the bottom but looked larger than my largest (8 qt) stock pot.  I bought it for $3.75.  When I got it home it indeed is taller than my other stock pot.  I measured the volume at 12 quarts!  Yippee!  It seems tall enough that I'd be able to do more than the pints that I can fit in my stock pot.  Then...  while surfing on Craig's List I found someone local selling a canner and canning jars.  After emailing back and forth with a young woman, I went to look at it on Saturday.  I thought I was going for a pressure canner, so I was beside myself with excitement!  When I got there, I discovered that the woman was selling her mom's boiling water bath canner (for a cut of the price) and didn't know a BWB from a pressure canner.  I was disappointed, but since I didn't have an big canner with rack and such, I bought the BWB canner (fits 7 quart jars at a time) plus 101 jars (mostly quarts), some lids, some accessories for $75.  It wasn't the screaming deal I was hoping for but it's decent.  Around here those jars would be $1-$1.50 each in the thrift shop, so not bad.  It is good that I got more jars, because I just used the last of mine for storing various gluten-free flours in.  I'd still been using these large canisters back from my gluten-days but it just didn't make sense.  Instead of 1-3 types of flour, now I use about 9, so the smaller containers make more sense.  Anyway, now I'm set for quarts!

And I figure I'll use that 12 quart stock pot for some of the canning cooking (like big batches of applesauce), then process the jars in the BWB canner.  Now I just need a bigger kitchen to hold all the big pots!

Garden Update April 2010

I started seeds MONTHS ago so that I'd be ready to go early to plant them.  And here it is the end of April.  Just this weekend, I finally put 7 basil plants in the ground, 3 patty pan squash, and 5 shallots.  The best laid plans...  Anyway, it was good to finally get them in.  And I planted them with some gorgeous compost that we'd sifted a couple weekends ago.  We used the coarser woody chunks as mulch on the yard to suppress weeds.  The fine compost I put in a trash can to store until I needed it in the garden.  In addition to a healthy crop of pill bugs and ear wigs, I couple squash-like plants sprouted in the trash can.  So I planted those in the garden today too and labeled them "mystery".  DS, who loves flowers, was pleased that we were able to plant about 7 marigolds that were already blooming after starting them from seed.

I gotta hand it to our citrus trees.  Today I picked the last orange tree clean.  They've been feeding us steadily since early December.  I've harvested over 216 pounds of mandarins, tangelos and navel oranges!  That's a lot of produce.

I've been keeping my "garden finance log" with the expenses and yields of the garden, starting in Nov 2009 with a large seed order.  To date, my garden expenses (which excludes water - hard to quantify - and labor) are $132.21 and my yield is $449.41.

We picked more of our carrots today, which is such a great crop for kids.  It is so fun to see what comes up out of the ground!