Sunday, June 26, 2011

Visitors to our Garden

Good thing we built the fence!
This pair was cruising for a way to get a taste of our salad greens.

And there's more just out of the hopper.

Our Garden Supervisor and Delicious Spinach Recipe

This is Hollie, our Siamese Supervisor. She has a clipboard, name badge and hardhat, of course, but is too vain to be seen with them, particularly when a camera is involved.

Robin invented another good recipe tonight, one that features our currently over-abundant spinach. Here it is

Chicken Bean Soup with Spinach
  • 1 1/4 c of mixed beans/peas (we use Costco's deluxe dry mix)
  • 5 c water
  • 1 Tbsp of organic, low sodium, chicken bullion
Mix these together in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour.
  • large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • about 1/2 c celery, chopped
  • 1/4 small onion, chopped, sauteed lightly in olive oil
Add these ingredients to the soup pot, continue to simmer for one more hour
  • two medium organic carrots, sliced thin
  • one small red pepper, chopped in small pieces
  • 6 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless) cut into small bite-sized pieces and sauteed in olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Add these ingredients to the soup pot, continue to simmer for 1/2 hour more
  • a large bowl of spinach leaves, fresh from the garden, washed and de-stemmed
Add raw spinach to simmering pot of soup and stir for about 3 minutes, until it's limp and well mixed with the other ingredients. Serve immediately, topped by a dollop of sour cream. Serves 4 as main course with possible left-overs. We like to taste all the individual vegetables and chicken, so we don't use herbs or seasoning in this soup, but it might benefit from a little fresh ground pepper for some tastes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Horse Trough Gardening - Progress Report


We planted romaine and red-leaf romaine lettuce on May 2nd from organic starts purchased at Browne Lumber/Nursery in Friday Harbor. In two weeks we began harvesting it and have been having dinner salads ever since. It's still going strong. We've given away bags full to neighbors and friends. Above is how it looks today. (The foreground is radishes and carrots.)


Lots of luck with our radishes! We planted them from seed sometime around May 15th, thinned about 100 of them out on June 8th, leaving about 60 plants, all of which are looking and tasting quite delicious! Again, we have enough to give many away. We'll plant more when we've harvested all of these.


The only problem with planting carrots and radishes together in the same row is that when we pull up the radishes it's almost impossible not to put out several young carrot plants whose delicate tops are intertwined with the radish tops.

Green Peppers

Fun to see these starting to develop! The powdery mildew problem seems under control, with removal of heavily affected leaves and spraying the others (see here).

Summer Squash

Despite our cool spring (and temps only today reaching 70 degrees for the first time), the squash is flowering nicely, portending an adequate crop. We're a bit concerned that the spacing may be too crowded. Time will tell.


Our beets continue to look promising, even though we've been harvesting the tops from time to time. (See delicious recipe here.) On a few of them, we're just starting to see the top of the beet. They grow tall and might be better placed at the rear of the trough, moving the radishes to the front next year.

The Whole Schamole!

This is how the garden looks from the lower (Southwest) corner, looking up at the troughs. We're mighty pleased with the whole system so far. Our only concern is that the water reservoir in the bottom of the troughs does not seem to be wicking upward, because we never need to add water to the reservoir. We do top-water a little each evening, although it doesn't seem to require much water. We wonder if it will begin to wick more as the temperatures increase this summer.

Speaking of summer, happy solstice to all!

Spinach Bolting!

We have, I think, 6 spinach plants, all of which have been prolific from the get-go.

We always have spinach in our salads and Robin frequently fixes a bit pot of stir-fried spinach (olive oil, roasted almonds, a few cranberries and a huge Dutch oven full of spinach), which is a great treat after buying spinach and parceling it out in meager servings. And still those six plants keep putting out more and more and more leaves! Are we going to turn green ourselves?

Two weeks ago we noticed the plants were bolting, which we learned means flowering, soon to be followed by going to seed. Our gardener friend says the leaves will turn bitter at that point. So, we've been pinching off the tops. It's working so far. The spinach still tastes great and keeps on producing new leaves.

Robin says, "It's so much fun to have a God's lavish of spinach leaves!" We agree that perhaps four plants would be enough next year, although it's been nice to give it away to neighbors and friends.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thinning Radishes & Beets + Beet Greens Recipe

At the suggestion of a neighbor who is quite experienced with growing veggies, we planted our carrots and radishes together, mixing the seeds and sprinkling them in a one-inch-deep ditch. Robin now says she should have used only half the seeds in the packets and heeded the spacing, because they seemed to have all germinated, yielding a solid line of plants all crowded together.  The radishes aren't ready to harvest yet, although some of them are nearly an inch in diameter. The carrots are just showing.

Last evening, we decided it was time to thin the radishes. Robin worked the rows, removing over 100 plants! Yet still there are a lavish of them remaining. We are eating the larger baby radishes and have donated the smaller ones and all the tops to our neighbor's chickens.

Our beets also needed thinning. This we did by cutting the tops off some of the plants, rather than pulling them up (as we did the radishes).

Robin concocted a delicious treat for our dinner using the beet tops:
  • rinse beet greens and stems; dry using salad spinner or towel
  • heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp of butter in large skillet
  • add fresh ground pepper (seasoned with a bit of lavender is good)
  • add 1/2 tsp honey
  • add beet greens
  • stir and turn until coated with oil and lightly cooked (limp, but not mushy)
  • serve and eat immediately

As you can see below, the lettuce, spinach and all are quite lush now... we're giving some of it away to keep up with its fast-paced growth! Let's hear it for the horse trough gardening system!

Gunny Sack Potatoes

If you've been reading my posts, you know we decided to grow our potatoes in gunny sacks this year. I wrote about it here.

The first sack we planted now looks like this:

We figure it's time to unroll the sack a bit and add more dirt. Since some of the sprouts are more developed than others, we'll have to bury a few leaves. We didn't anticipate growth differentiation and hope it's not a problem.

Powdery Mildew... Treatment Plan

With the moist, cool and somewhat humid spring (typical of the Northwest), our squash, peppers and tomatoes (all heat and sunshine lovers) developed powdery mildew. Yuk!

We let it go a little too long and some of the leaves were covered with it. Research time! First we asked our neighbor at Bountiful Herbs Garden, who said we might be able to prevent further developments of it by spraying with baking soda mixed with water and a little liquid soap. We then searched on line, where we found many useful articles, particularly this one by a California Master Gardner. We decided not to risk contamination of our soil with baking soda and to try, instead, a commercial sulfur treatment.

But first, Robin pruned away all the seriously infected leaves, leaving only those with slight-blight. Powdery mildew spreads by contact such as by touching infected leaves with your fingers and then touching non-infected leaves or by wind, and can also spread by getting into the dirt. Therefore, we disposed of the pruned leaved in a sealed plastic bag in our garbage (not good for the compost!).

We then sprayed the new growth and remaining slight-blight growth using this fungicide which is recommended by our local Master Gardner group as good for organic gardening. I think we've saved our plants! This is how they look now, after pruning and spraying.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vegetables Growing Well!

Here is an updated picture of the garden taken a few days ago.

Since our original posts in early May, we have added and planted two more troughs, for a total of four. In the troughs we are growing:
  • red leaf lettuce
  • green and red romaine lettuce
  • French crisp lettuce
  • oakleaf red saladbowl lettuce
  • spinach
  • early beets
  • radishes
  • carrots (Nantes Half Long)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • roma tomatoes
  • summer squash (yellow)
  • summer squash (green)
  • zucchini (black beauty)
  • acorn squash
  • red beauty sweet peppers
  • a few marigolds for insect control and salad decorations

    We're already eating delicious salads from our garden including various lettuces, beet greens, spinach and radish greens.

    In addition to the troughs, we are growing three types of potatoes using the gunny-sack method...

    and strawberries planted in a half-oak-barrel.

    This will be the full extent of our garden for 2011, although we'll rotate in a few new crops in the late summer or early fall. Depending on how it goes this year, we may add two or four more troughs next year. We will definitely want to add peas and beans.


    One of our readers asked about how frequently we water.

    Right now, it's still pretty cool here in the Pacific Northwest, especially at night when it's only around 50; plus we've been overcast. Therefore, we're not needing to water much. When we check the reservoirs (usually every day), they generally don't need much water (less than a minute of filling) if any.

    We are still top-watering a bit, as per the suggestion of the originator of the horse trough system, especially the two newly planted troughs. We figure once the root systems are well established, we won't have to top water at all. That's the plan.

    Everything is growing quite well so far!