Thursday, July 30, 2015

A mighty fortress is my garden

As they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That goes for fences, too, in its own way. Despite the pickets, the hardware cloth at the bottom, the floppy poultry netting at the top, baby bunnies and a woodchuck pup still managed to breach the ramparts via small but vital gaps. Each time I saw a critter in the vegetable garden, I tailed it until it slipped out, then plugged the now apparent hole.

I wasn't too upset about the broccoli, as I had harvested the main heads a while back and the side shoots were petering out. But the sweet potatoes - argh!

And, to add insult to injury, *something* chomped the branches on one of my new cherry trees. Double argh!! I planned to protect them from winter injury by rabbits but I did not expect to have to worry about summer damage.

It looks like whatever did this did it just for spite, as it didn't actually *eat* the branches but just chomped them off, leaving raggedy stubs. Triple argh!!!

On the good news front, I think I have a solution to the pea plant-eating sparrows: mylar tape. If that doesn't work, maybe I will enclose the entire garden in a sparrow-proof, rodent-proof cage. Or give up.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Knee high by the fourth of July

When I retired, I had this vision of my entire yard being pristine and perfect. Well, HA, HA, HA. The vegetable garden is not half bad, though. We nudged the beds apart a bit, to make it easier to navigate the pathways. Instead of trying to keep those paths weedfree, I've been weed whacking them every two weeks. This strategy makes for a trimmed look.

Within the beds, I've been diligent about weeding and mulching, so they look nice and tidy, full of the intended plants, more or less. The one BIG FAIL has been the pea/bean beds. The sparrows nibble on the pea plants, ruining the crop, so I hung bird netting over the support structure. The results were predictable: the peas became hopelessly entangled in the netting, unreachable weeds took over the edges, the pole beans could not compete. And then a big storm came through and blew the whole mess down. So I cleaned out the beds completely. The plan is to reinforce the bean poles, then replant the pole beans. I've not had much luck with fall peas, but if I do plant them, I'll need to come up with a new strategy for besting the birds.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

How much basil is too much?

Every year, when I plant herbs, I tell myself I will harvest them when their flavor peaks. And then I don't. But now that I am retired, I am doing a better job of meeting that intention. So yesterday was the day of the first big basil harvest.

Like kale, a whole lot of basil may be reduced to usable portions very easily. I chose to freeze some whole leaves, which I intend to use on pizza sometime this winter. I chopped the rest in a food processor with a bit of olive oil (1T per packed cup (about 30g) of pre-chopped basil), then froze the results in an ice cube tray, for later use in sauces, soups, stirfry, etc.

Unlike kale, I don't think one can have too much basil. It enhances almost any food. This morning, after transferring the frozen cubes to a freezer bag, I mixed the errant basil "crumbs" with a hard boiled egg. Delish!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

How much kale is too much?

I have never (successfully) grown kale before this year. Last summer, I made a late-summer, direct-seeded effort, for naught. This summer, I started plants inside. After giving some to my daughter, I transplanted eight into my garden. And they have grown magnificently.

Red Russian Kale, post-harvest, pre-weeding

Then came the question of when to harvest. Many recommended picking off the outer leaves as they became big, letting more form from within, which is also how I harvest leaf lettuce for my salads. And it turns out, one may blanch and freeze both the leaves and stems, which I did last night, with the intention of using the former for soup and the latter for stock.

But then what? Some can go into salads and stirfry and smoothies. But still. That's a lot of kale for one person. Maybe I can leave the extra on my neighbors' porches, a hint of things to come after the inevitable zucchini-apocalypse.