Saturday, September 19, 2009

190 more square feet!

We attacked a long discussed project this weekend. We converted one of our parking spots to a garden spot. When we moved in three years ago, we inherited a carport large enough for two cars to park. This monstrosity sat just a few feet from our largest living room picture windows and was always quite an eyesore. It also was poorly constructed and very old, so we never felt safe parking or walking underneath it. Last year we tore out the carport, and ever since we have talked about converting the parking spaces into garden. We have taken our time with this project because as annoying as those parking spaces are when we are playing in the yard, they are convienant when we are carrying groceries or infants. So we decided to just tear out one for starters. The photo with the little tike is the "during" photo. I raked out the gravel and about 2-4 inches of soil/rock to make room for the top soil. Then I did my best to loosen the hard scrabble underneath. I added 5 truckloads - 2 1/2 yards of topsoil mix from Sandy Creek Supply. This is a nice mix of topsoil, mushroom manure and sand. Cost me $18 a load for a total cost of $80 for the project. I seeded the garden with some green manure (white clover I think), hoping it will get a start before winter. I expect this will be a summer plot of tomatoes and peppers perhaps. The lower picture is the finished photo of the new plot. 190 sq feet is a significant plot for us. This immediately becomes our second largest planting area. The sun is not so great, so we'll have to be careful how we plant it, but we are eagerly awaiting the planning and planting!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Detailed Green Bean Post

One of the best 2009 garden surprises was Green Beans. Until this year, Green Beans had never had a prominent place in our garden. I always grew pole beans and because they grow vertically, I had always tossed them in somewhere as an afterthought amd/or companian planting. They never really had a space of their own. 2009 was the year where I started treating green beans like the garden staple that they can be.

On May 9th I planted our first green beans. It was a bush variety from seed savers exchange called fin de bagnol. I put them in an approx 12 sq foot section of raised bed in the sun garden. The first harvest from this batch was on 7/1, so we are looking at about 50 days from planting to harvest.

I did a nice job of succession planting with the green beans and because of that we had an endless supply of green beans throughout the season. The details of the plantings...

1. 5/9 Fin de Bagnol - harvest 7/1 - stopped producing and torn out on approx 8/15
2. 5/22 early bird garden - planted in sun garden - still producing in mid September
3. 6/7 slenderrette - in sun garden - still producing in mid September
4. 7/13 early bird garden - planted in sun garden (replanted after potatoe harvest) - still producing in mid September
5. 7/19 slenderrette - in sq foot garden #1 (replacement planting) - still producing
6. 6/30 (guesstimate) - various pole beans planted in the chimney garden on the tepee
7. 7/25 (guesstimate) - early bird garden beans in the sun garden (replacement planting for beets and carrots) - just beginning to produce now.

As of 9/15 our green bean harvest for the year has been a quite robust 30 pounds. If we are able to coax 5 more pounds out of this crop (and I think that is possible), green beans will finish the season as our third largest producer behind only tomatoes and onions. This is amazing considering I only dedicated 32 sq feet of sun garden space (1 1/4 rows) to this veggie. All my other planting locations were replacement plantings. This veggie matures fast enough and likes warmer weather, so it is ideal for replacing early spinach, potatoe, lettuce and chard plantings - perhaps even onions. As of 9/15 we have 14 pints of green beans canned in the pantry.

The quality of the beans this year were fantastic. We did a great job of harvesting regularly. Bush beans are easy to see and harvest. No ladder is necessary. So I bet we were harvesting on average 2 or 3 times weekly. Even the quality of our pole beans this year was way better than in the past.

Although we had several varieties of beans, I didn't find myself liking one variety more than the others. They all tasted about the same to me. I am sure a cooking snob could expouse the virtues of one over the others, but that didn't jump out to me.

We discovered a wonderful garden soup called hungarian green bean soup. It uses two veggies that arrive in quantity at exactly the same time (green beans and red potatoes), and it uses a ton of both. It is so tasty and different. It uses paprika and caraway seeds as its main spices. The flavor combinations are unlike anything that we get in any of our staple dishes, so it is a nice change of pace. We made a tom on this soup in July and August and it always impressed kids and guests.

There isn't a whole lot I would change about my green bean planting this year. Succession planting was the key to a long consistent harvest. My production was fantastic, so I don't need more garden space. In fact I may not dedicate a full sun garden plot to beans next year. Perhaps I will just do a half plot in late spring and then do my main plantings as replacements for the early spring veggies. The pole beans add a whole bunch of visual interest to the chimney garden and the variety is nice - that will continue also.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Garden update

It has been a long time since I've posted to my little electronic garden notebook. Certainly there has been some garden activity in the interim - it's just that the late summer activity is all about harvest and weeding and watering - not exactly noteworthy stuff. Anyway - as garden season starts to wind down, I am going to continue the single veggie posts and start some 2010 planning notes. For today - I'll just play a little catch-up...

Harvest Weight - 412 pounds - We are still harvesting quite a variety. Yesterday we had a salad made with 11 garden veggies (chard, spinach, beet leaves, romaine, carrots, red onions, grape tomatoes, cukes, peas, green beens,brocoli). It was really tasty. The romas have been the bulk of our recent harvests, but their production is dwindling fast. Two weeks ago I harvested 17 pounds of romas, this morning only yielded 6 pounds. I am really proud of our harvest this year. By the time I put the garden scale away for the winter we will likely be near 450 pounds of home grown organic food. That is a lot. For a frame of reference my entire family of 6 weighs in at 445 pounds. So we grew and ate our weight in food this year. That is fantastic. I am sure we ate more veggies this year than we ever have in our lives. Now that I have a baseline harvest weight established, I can't wait to try to beat this target next year.

I have been canning a lot in the evenings. It has been going very well. We have a wide variety in the pantry this winter as opposed to an entire basement of spaghetti sauce last year. More on this process to come in a detailed canning post later.

Leek note: Mary Ann - my Verona garden friend who lives down by the river, gave us a bunch of leeks from her garden a couple weeks ago. They were about 4 inches tall. She told me they will be ready to harvest in spring. I am hoping that I can plant a summer crop of peppers or tomatoes in their place after their harvest. I put them in the former onion plot in the sun garden.

Asparagus note: I am trying for a small fall harvest of asparagus. I read about this strategy in a book once. This weekend (9/13) I cut the ferns on about 1/2 of our asparagus plot. I snipped them off as close to ground level as I could manage. Then I covered this section with fresh compost. The book said that I can expect a fall harvest of asparagus as these plants send shoots back up. With the cool fall weather these shoots are supposed to be super-tasty. Crossing my fingers.

Cooking note: Roasted Beets and Carrots are just about the best darn side dish ever invented. Just toss a bunch of beets and carrots in a big alum foil pack, drizzle them with olive oil and some rosemary and put them in a 400 degree oven. They will take a while to cook. when you take them out you can skin the beets easily and slice the whole pile up. The beets turn the carrots the nicest color and the tastes blend together. It is the bomb. Sarah has been talking about this side dish for days. She wants it to become a Thanksgiving staple.