March 9 Photos

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I found a couple of old Earthboxes and decided to try them out. When I first tried them they didn’t get watered often enough—massive failure.

I went online to buy new covers; two for $13? Ouch. I noticed that an organic refill kit, which included two covers, was only $17. That’s what I ordered.

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Each of the boxes took about six gallons of homemade potting mix. I split the fertilizer and dolomite between them. The one on the left contains four “Celebrity” tomato seedlings. On the right we have four “California Wonder” green peppers and four jalapeños. This is 33% more than recommended in both cases. We’ll see.

Notice that the box on the left is on wheels; the other is sitting on the patio.

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As an experiment I added sixteen bushels of leaves to the compost bin. I then soaked them down with tap water and miracle grow. Perhaps the added nitrogen will help them rot faster. I still have plenty of leaves to add.

Broccoli harvesting continues. The knife is a stainless MoraKniv Companion. Very nice!

Yesterday’s Harvest

 

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OK, so it will never be displayed in the Met.

My new Olympus doesn’t do quite so well inside as out. But this is what I harvested yesterday.

I took the photo just moments before I chopped up the peppers and tossed them in a stir-fry.

I ate the broccoli and tomato for lunch, today.

Springtime (almost)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAh, late winter in Florida. Daytime temperatures in the high 70s, dropping to the mid-60s at night. A time when all men’s fancy turns to – calling a lawn service and having the #!&* oak leaves vacuumed up!

But I resisted the awful temptation and fired up my trusty hand-powered rake. I worked for one and a half hours before lunch today. I only managed to get the gutter in front of my house plus my driveway. At least now I can tell that I have a driveway.

When I took a break for lunch I decided I needed a little inspiration to keep going. So I watched some “Homesteader Porn.” Don’t Worry, it’s definitely G rated. But it got me all pumped up to go out and do some more raking.

It reminded me of Laura Ingalls helping her dad with the haying. Except Laura was only 4 foot 11 (1.5m)! Talk about strength and coordination!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I’ve harvested since last I posted.

(4) Tomatoes: 19 ounces

(1) green pepper: 1.6 ounces

(4) heads of broccoli: 19 ounces

(1) head of cauliflower: 5.8 ounces

A handful of jalapenos 1.3 ounces

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA handful of broccoli florets: 2 ounces

Notice the head of cauliflower – that one plant that never formed a head suddenly did!

I never did find my camera—but I got a new one. It’s an Olympus VG-160. The pictures are better quality; you wouldn’t believe how many out-of-focus shots I had with my old camera.

February Harvest

Once again, I’ve been remiss in posting.

Our cold, miserable January ended with a bang – the last five days were even more wet and miserable than the rest of the month. Around here we average 2 inches of rain in January. During the last five days of January, 2014, I got over 3 inches at my house. February has started off less miserably but the rains continue off and on.

The good news is:
I haven’t had to water my garden during the last two and half weeks.
There was not one Frost all winter!
I harvested some vegetables.

Harvesting:

Wednesday, January 29: harvested three small heads of broccoli, total 18 ounces. I chopped these up and ate them, raw, over the next several days in my lunch. Very tender and tasty.

Saturday, February 1: harvested three ripe tomatoes, total 11 ounces. Yum.

Sunday, February 2: remember those cauliflowers I planted on a lark? Well one of them never formed a head. I harvested the other three today – for a total of 33 ounces. The smallest head of cauliflower weighed as much as the largest head of broccoli. Must think about planting more cauliflower next year.

Thursday, February 6. Harvested one small tomato: 4 ounces. I’ve been very pleased with the tomatoes and I’m keeping on top of picking them just as they become ripe. The flavor is very good. I also picked a couple of tiny green peppers and jalapenos on Friday – these plants are definitely done for.

The garden isn’t yet producing enough veggies to supply all my needs. But I eat raw veggies every day for lunch—and the garden has been handling that for the past couple of months.

I’ll add some pictures to the post when I figure out where I put my camera. I had it on Friday…

TTFN

[Update: I mowed the lawn for the first time this year. I really should have done it two weeks ago.

More broccoli. I picked another small head: 3.75 oz. ]

Two in One Day

01ReadyImagine, two posts on the same day! This one, instead of being delayed like most of my others, is actually about today. Mostly.

This was a good morning to stay inside doing housekeeping – it’s cold out there. After lunch it warmed up quite nicely – low 60s. As long as I was working, and in the sun, and wearing a sweatshirt and a hat, it was quite comfortable. Did I mention I was also wearing long-johns? No, I’m not kidding. It doesn’t bother me to work outside under the summer sun when it’s 95° and 100% humidity. Cold is another story.

Just to get caught up to date, last Monday I cut my first head of broccoli. It wasn’t very big, about 6 02Fillounces. Yes, I ate it before I took a picture.

Today I worked on the compost heap, adding lots of kitchen and garden waste that had been building up. I decided to “seed” all three of my compost bins with worms. These aren’t garden worms, but compost worms (a.k.a. red worms). I’ve been neglecting raising them in a plastic bin in the sunroom. I’m curious to see how they take to living in the wild. They probably won’t start breeding with 03Plantthe weather this cold but one never knows. Tomorrow it’s supposed to reach 70.

I went to Home Depot to check out vegetable plants – they looked pretty good. I picked up nine each of Packman broccoli and Bonnie hybrid cabbage (a new variety for me). Each nine-pack cost $3.89. That’s only 43 cents per plant.

Before transplanting them I washed the 6 inch pots with hot soapy 04Back Fillwater. That’s just a precaution in case the previous potting soil had any nasty fungus or microbes. Note: as a general rule it isn’t best to reuse potting soil. Toss it in the compost heap to take care of any nasties that might have taken up residence.

Once the pots had air-dried I laid them out on a card table in the sunroom.

The first step in transplanting is to water the plants enough so their root balls will stay together.

I filled each pot about 05Donehalfway with the soil I prepared last weekend.

After placing the seedlings in the pots, I back-filled with more soil.

The Brassica family does not like loose soil very much. I firmly pressed down the potting soil around the root balls.

Finally I gave each pot 2 cups of dechlorinated water. The potting soil was pretty dry.

I’ll keep the plants inside tonight but tomorrow they go out in the cold, cruel world.

That Didn’t Work Out

Tree FrogI know I said that I was going to post more often – but that hasn’t happened, has it? The pictures I’m sharing today really should’ve been posted on January 18. What can I say? I got distracted doing other things.

The weather has been quite chilly. Though we haven’t had any frost this winter, average temperatures seem below normal. Check out the tree frog I found when I popped the lid off a bucket of worm castings. He’s so cold that he never budged. I’m afraid that the global warming thing is a lot like the Affordable Care Act. The government invented it and then couldn’t get it to work!

IngredientsI need to get some more Brassica planted before the end of the month. I also want to start some seeds for the spring garden. Becky gave me some heirloom seeds from Monticello. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they do.
Unfortunately, I’m all out of potting soil so I needed to mix up some more.

The recipe I used here is six parts each of vermiculite and compost, plus three parts of worm castings. I also tossed in a small handful (1/3 cup?) Of slow release nitrogen fertilizer (20-0-0).
MixingMy measuring cup is an old Folgers plastic coffee canister – it has a volume of about three quarts. The final mix almost filled two five-gallon buckets.

The pictures show how I mix it. I dump the ingredients on a large piece of plastic sheet. For purposes of this web post I put the ingredients in separate piles because it looks more interesting.

To mix all the ingredients together I simply “walk” the sheet back and forth. That is to say, I pick up one end of the sheet of plastic and walk toward the other end. This causes the ingredients to tumble together. Then I put down the first end, pick up the second, and walked back the other way.

It doesn’t take long before everything is thoroughly mixed.

As far as produce goes – I picked one small eggplant (about 5 ounces) and two small green peppers. I think the eggplants and green peppers are about done for the season.

And More Rain

BroccoliYes, it’s still raining – off and on. We got another quarter-inch here on Saturday night. It has been a week since I last needed to water the garden. The plants still looked good when I got home from work today but I decided to water them anyhow.

Not much news. Yesterday Clay borrowed my live trap. His target is a chicken killing possum. Such is Cabbagelife in the big city!

Today I picked:

1.5 ounces of jalapeňos
6.0 ounces of eggplants
6.5 ounces of bell peppers

My tomato vines have lots of green tomatoes on them. I’ve never been a fan of eating green tomatoes so I think I’m going to wait.

Enjoy the pictures – my first batch of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are starting to “fruit.”

Cauliflower

Rainy New Year

What is it with this weather?

December was mild with only a few cool days – normal weather. A frost is very rare in December. On the other hand, a solid cloud cover with barely a glimpse of the sun is not normal from Christmas to New Year’s. And did I mention the rain? I thought we were in the dry season. This past week it rained on Monday. I worked in the garden on Tuesday. It rained on Wednesday and Thursday. Finally, the sun came out yesterday (Friday, January 3) but the temperature plummeted. The high for the day was only about 53°F.

So I didn’t get as much done in the garden this week as I had hoped to.

Potato HarvestI harvested the sweet potatoes from the four plants that I had bought at Lowe’s. As I worked I discovered that only three of the plants had survived. I harvested a whole 4 1/2 pounds! Many of the tubers were rather small.

I also pulled a small purple sweet potato that was growing as a weed amongst the bell peppers.

Note to self: keep mixing compost into the soil and, next time, add a little fertilizer at planting! The heavily weathered soil on the Suncoast has little natural fertility.

Crater LakesWhile digging sweet potatoes I also weeded the bed. Then I planted the four cabbages and four broccoli that were patiently waiting in their 8 inch pots. I used the crater planting technique. I filled each crater with water – untreated, straight from the hose. Since it rained on Wednesday and Thursday I didn’t do any watering this week.

I quit work while there was still daylight so I could get cleaned up to go to a New Year’s Eve prayer fellowship. That was a peaceful, productive way to bring in the new year.

Clay and Maggie dropped by on Wednesday to bless me with a half-dozen eggs from their chickens. They also wanted to see my garden and pick up their manure buckets. I sautéed the purple sweet potato, one of the Beauregards, and an eggplant in palm oil. We enjoyed sampling them together. The purple potato wasn’t as sweet as the orange ones. Maggie’s especially fond of sweet potatoes so I sent some home with her.

P1000374We checked the temperature of the newest compost pile – number four. Even though it was less than 9 inches deep and there’d been a cold rain all morning the temperature was up to 84°.

After looking things over, Maggie asked why I bothered transplanting the broccoli and cabbages into the ground – they were growing so well in the pots. What a silly question! Obviously, I had to transplant them because, uh, you know. Well, I mean. Hmm…

Maybe I ought to experiment with container gardening?

By the way – what’s the plural of broccoli? There seems to be some confusion online. Since the word “broccoli” is the plural of the Italian word “broccolo,” I’m going to use broccoli for both singular and plural in English. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Compost and Santa

ManureI’ve never believed in Santa Claus. Not even when I was little. But on December 26th I started to wonder. I’d been busy all day Tuesday and gone all day Wednesday (Christmas). When I went outside on Thursday morning to check the garden I discovered – two buckets of dried chicken manure! It looks like Santa came to my house after all. Of course, I knew 

Eggplant fruit

Santa’s real name. Thanks for the manure, Clay and Maggie!

About 10 days ago I picked my first Bell pepper – about 4 ounces. I would’ve posted a picture of it but I ate it before remembering my camera. Yesterday I picked my first eggplant fruits – 2 1/2 pounds. I had 4 ounces for lunch today, raw, as a salad. It was very good. Of course, I’m still picking and eating jalapeños.

Bin 4

The buckets of chicken manure inspired me to get compost pile number four started. As you can see I’ve switched to four mil black plastic. A 10′ x 25′ sheet, big enough for four compost bins, cost $15. At $3.75 per use, this is 135% more expensive than the two mil clear plastic. But the clear plastic didn’t hold up. The sunlight caused it to disintegrate.

I think I’m going to try doing shorter posts more often. We’ll see how that goes.

Welcome to December, 2013

Welcome to December, 2013

Here we are, December already. My favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving, is already past. More than 20 of us gathered at Wayne and Bridget’s house for a wonderful time of food and fellowship. Bridget talked me into making brioche. I didn’t have a proper mixer but Becky invited me to drop by and use hers. I made brioche by hand once – never again. Last week I finally broke down and bought one for myself. Becky found it online for me for $192 including shipping and tax. Such a deal!

Of course I’m using this festive season to try out my new fireplace (it came with the house). Yep, nothing like a fireplace to make a house feel cozy on an 82°F day! Bing weather predicts that the daytime high temperature will drop below 80° on Thursday. But 75° still isn’t cool enough for a fire. Maybe January…

Eight InchLast weekend I picked up four more cabbage plants and four more broccoli. Since I was too busy to dig up more garden I transplanted them into 8 inch pots. They are doing nicely. I also had to mow my yard again. With the occasional rain and warm weather is still hasn’t stopped growing. Maybe January…

All day yesterday I spent goofing off.

Starting early this morning I spent seven hours writing a one-page post for my other site. One of the best parts about blogging is that it forces me to confront my ideas. I thought I knew what I was talking about until I started writing – the process showed me how little thought I had put into my opinion.

That didn’t leave a whole lot of time for gardening – and doing laundry – and writing this post. So I skipped grocery shopping. It’s been three weeks but, between Thanksgiving and dinner invitations, I have plenty of food to last another week. To quote Hawkeye Pierce, “never let it be said that I didn’t do the least I could do.”

Bin OneGardening work has been mostly maintenance – watering, making compost tea, and adding stuff to the compost bin. Last weekend I decided that bin #3 was full – time to start another. Bin #1 never did rot thoroughly so I’ve been using compost from bin 2 for the tea.

Today I started shoveling out the leaf mold – I’ll use it during the winter as a mulch and to bury kitchen wastes, etc. Once the lawn finally stops growing I’ll no longer have grass clippings to use for this purpose.

Rotten tomatoI had forgotten that I put an old shower curtain on the ground before starting this compost bin. This was not one of my brightest ideas. The bottom layer of leaves turned into fiberboard rather than compost. Most of the leaves I put in this pile were never shredded so they matted pretty badly. I found only one tiny earthworm in the pile. So sad.

good tomatoesCheck out the lovely green tomato going into the compost – here it is December and the bugs are still getting more produce than I am. I’ve never had much success with tomatoes planted in the fall. I think I’ll slip some plastic under the other green tomatoes to try to keep the bugs away. I haven’t done anything whatsoever regarding insect control.

The eggplants have been flowering for a while but only recently have started to set fruit. I have one bell pepper nearly ready to pick and several smaller ones coming along. I did manage to harvest a handful of small jalapenos – 1.1 ounces of them. Most of my plants are rather small – the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants haven’t taken off the way I would’ve expected. I suspect this is largely due to my neglect during their first month or so in the ground. Note to self: in the future pay closer attention to the care of new seedlings!

JalapenosHey, at least I should get some broccoli and cabbage. I’ve never had a serious failure with those crops, and they’re looking good. Next year I’ll try to start planting them earlier and see how that works.