Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Potatoes Have Arrived

Today, the potatoes finally arrived. There are 30 seed potatoes in all: 10 All-Blue, 10 Red Pontiac, and 10 Kennebec (white). I am actually splitting this order so 15 of these are mine, the other 15 belong to Chris (my boss who supplied me with the horse manure). I plan on planting some now to get "new" potatoes in July and then plant the rest to get a fall crop. The only potatoes big enough to split are some of the All-Blue. I think these are really cool looking:

I have started the sprouting process, but I am new at this so we will see how this goes. With a little luck I will have them in the ground by next week.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beautiful Busy Weekend

The last couple of days have had a steady warming from 70 on Thursday up to 85 Today. I have been super busy planting fruit trees and bushes around the yard. Today, I added 2 more blueberries to my previous 4 (these are Eliot variety and should grow to about 5 feet tall). I also planted 3 apple trees: Red Delicious, Fuji, and a Jonathan. I also made some Compost Tea over-night for the blueberries (as was advised in Rodale's Gardening Encyclopedia) and added some Espoma organic soil acidifier to the blueberry beds. Tomorrow, I hope to mulch in all of the fruit plantings, train the apple trees, and possibly plant some beans.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Raspberries and Blueberries

Today, I purchased and planted 5 Raspberry plants. A garden center in town was selling all sorts of fruiting plants on sale through April so I picked these out. I bought 3 Boyne Raspberries, which should ripen in early July, and 2 Autumn Britten Raspberries, which should fruit in August/September. The picture above is one of the Autumn Britten Raspberries, the Boyne's look just like sticks at this point.

I also bought 4 blueberry bushes: 2 Top Hat Dwarf and 2 Northland varieties. I haven't decided where I will plant these but I will figure that out by the weekend.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Garden Project: Rain Barrels

In a move reminiscent of the show Living With Ed, I added rain barrels to my arsenal of gardening tools. I actually built these rain barrels last fall, but temperatures dropped before I had a chance to fully set them up. Today, I hooked them up to one of the downspouts on the house. I built these super cheap using free barrels and only a few dollars worth of other supplies. They are built out of 2-30 gallon barrels so I should be able to collect plenty of water to use for watering the garden.

I hear the rainfall on the roof right now... maybe later this week I can make some more compost tea.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Planting Carrots and Beets

Today, I dug up my carrot and beet bed one more time and planted the seeds (Beet seeds are in the picture above). Even though I have planted in this part of the garden before, it is still incredibly rocky. If I had known how bad it was going to be, I might have sifted the soil through a screen (perhaps I will do this for the upcoming plantings). After digging out the area, I tied a string to the fence and then staked a popsicle stick on the other end.

I planted 2 varieties of carrots ("nantes" and "little fingers" both from Livingston Seed Company). I originally wanted to plant a variety call "napoli" as a fall crop based on what Eliot Coleman wrote about them in The New Organic Grower. My wife convinced me that I should just try a couple of varieties sold in the local gardening store rather than spending extra to have a specific variety shipped to me at this point. I also decided to do a spring planting as well (obviously).

The beets are "Burpee's Red Ball" variety. I planted these since we already had them, but I am going to do by best to avoid Burpee seeds in the future. Burpee is currently holding me my potato seeds hostage because they deem it too early for me to plant them. I find this odd since every book I have about gardening says that it is to have the potatoes in the ground in the early spring, the ubiquitous seed refused to send them to me until April 20th. I called and asked them to send them to me, but they won't budge. They did however CHARGE MY CREDIT CARD for the seeds even though they won't ship them to me when I want them. Lesson learned: Burpee is a fascist seed conglomerate and no longer deserve my business. I learned this lesson for myself, but a quick web search could have told me that there are many reasons to buy seeds from companies other than Burpee.

Anyway, I decided to plant do 3 plantings of the carrots and beets so that I would have a rolling harvest (not sure why I didn't do this for the lettuce). Here is the first third.

I spaced the seeds about a half an inch apart and I will thin them in 3 to 4 weeks. I will also do my second planting in 2 weeks and and the third in 4 weeks. This should provide the family with a July full of beets, beet greens, and carrots.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Lettuce Has Emerged!

Last night I noticed the first couple of lettuce seedlings poking through the soil! My garden officially has plants grown from seeds.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Local Food Field Trip: Nashoba Valley Winery

When considering how to cook the turkey legs I picked up last week on my last field trip, I thought that they would be good braised in some white wine. Unfortunately when I checked our wine rack, there was nothing really suitable. This made me happy since it was a perfect excuse to make a field trip to a local winery (a normal person would just go to a liquor store, but if I was normal I wouldn't have started this blog). So today I stopped at the Nashoba Valley Winery on my way home from work.

Behind their restaurant in Bolton there is the have a wine shop that sells a wide variety of solid, reasonably priced wines.

Honestly, I have only had one bad wine from them (it was one of the Blueberry wines... but not the Blueberry Merlot). I bought 6 bottles of wine for $70 bucks which I consider pretty good. The wines I selected today were:

White Wines
Cyser: Honey-Apple Wine
Gravenstein: Dry Apple Wine
2008 Riesling
2007 Gewurztraminer

Red Wines
2007 Renaissance (Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Lemberger Blend)
Chrysleton - 20% Elderberry 80% Apple Wine (OK this one is reddish, rather than an actually red)

I've had the Cyser and Renaissance before and they were both solid. The rest will be a bit of an adventure. They also have beer at the winery, but I have never tried it. I will definitely pick some up on my next trip.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Garden Project: Compost Tea

Today, I made my first attempt at "brewing" compost tea. I had heard of the stuff before and figured that compost tea would allow me to keep my organic approach to gardening, efficiently use the small compost pile I started this winter, and give watering the garden a bit more punch. After scanning the web for an hour or so, I ended up seeing dozens of articles, videos, and commercially available "brewing" devices. All of them basically described the same process to making tea: get compost, throw it in a bucket, cover with water, add sugar for food (unsulfured molasses was the most popular), aerate, strain out the solids, and poor liquid on your plants.

So I gathered my materials:

Once the compost, water and molasses was mixed I set up the aerators. Some of the sources I read suggested that the aeration should be left for several days, but most said 24 hours would do the trick and some said as few as 6 hours would be fine. I decided to make 2 smallish batches and to aerate for just a few hours (it ended up being 8 hours total.

So after dinner I filtered through some mesh screening:

I ended up with a stuff that looks like, well, tea. It was dark brown and had a very faint soil scent (but no unpleasant odors).

I watered the lettuce and snap pea areas of the garden with the resulting tea and I turned the filtered solids into the area where we will grow the potatoes. Next time I will let the tea brew a bit longer. By then I will also be watering actual plants and will need to make some larger batches since I should have a couple more things in the ground in a couple of weeks.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Local Food Field Trip: Bob's Turkey Farm

Today I ventured out a little field trip on my way to the grocery store (it added about 45 minutes to my trip to the store, but well worth it). I went to Bob's Turkey Farm in Lancaster Massachusetts. Last year, when I started to focus on local food, I found a good supply of local ground beef. Unfortunately, from a taste perspective, my family prefers ground turkey for many of our standard recipes that call for ground meat. So today I made a trip to ameliorate this issue.

When you go to Bob's it appears like you are just pulling into someones driveway, but the driveway leads into what would normally be a back yard. As you step out of the car you hear a quiet collection of chirps behind a fence and you see the extremely unremarkable looking building.

Once in the building, you will see a bunch of freezer cases filled with meat, gravy, stuffing, and turkey filled prepared meals (everything from turkey pot pie to turkey parmesan). I was also told that if you call ahead you can get fresh cuts of meat, depending on what they have on hand on a given day. I bought 3 lbs of ground turkey, some turkey cutlets and some fresh turkey thighs (because that is what they had available). I also picked up a price list, a color brochure,

and a cool letter from the Mass Dept of Food and Agriculture explaining why you can't go and see the birds.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Garden Project: Cover for Lettuce

Disclaimer: My wife thinks this was a completely crazy, over the top solution to covering the lettuce... and she's probably right.

So, I planted salad greens and peas last week and attempted to cover the lettuce with some old landscaping fabric. I knew this was only a temporary solution (since photosynthesis cannot take place through opaque black fabric), but I hadn't figured out how I would cover the greens.

After researching a bit, I decided to use some scrap wood to build a cross between a hoop-house and a cold-frame.

Hopefully this structure (which cost $3 for the plastic covering) will last long enough for me to use when I plant some of my later crops.

In about 10 days I will put my beets and potatoes into the ground, but like the peas, they are heartier so I won't construct any elaborate structure to cover them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Seeds in the Soil

Today was a beautiful Sunday. It is also approximately 4 weeks before the last frost making it a perfect day to put lettuce and peas into the ground. First, I put all of the organic nutrients that I picked up for my garden. In addition to the horse manure, I added the following from Russell's Garden Center in Wayland: three 3.8-Cubic feet of Peat Moss, a 38 lb bag of Greensand, and an 8 lb bag or rock phosphate.

After turning the soil over a bit, I planed 3 rows of snap peas (one that will trellis up the fence of the garden and 2 others that will grow up my larger trellis) and three rows of mesclun mix. I watered them in and then covered the lettuce with an old piece of landscaping fabric (I'll take it off next weekend). The next couple of days will be wet and a bit chilly, but I should see some growth in a couple of weeks.

I plan on starting some herbs and the Roma tomatoes in the next few days. I'll put them under the grow light along with the other tomatoes and celeriac.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Boss and his Giant Pile of Horse Manure

In an effort to build soil structure for my "new" garden, I was looking for some free horse manure. Fortunately, by boss informed me that his neighbor owned a horse and, as a result, had a big pile of horse manure free for the taking.

This is Mickey the horse:

This is the pile:

This is my 4 trash bags of composted horse manure that I will add to my garden:

I may go back for more, but that is all the manure that I felt my little car could handle. Even if this is all my garden needs, I think I might use some more on my lawn rather than using bags of chemical fertilizer.

So, thanks to my boss for the giant pile of horse manure... seriously!