Thursday, April 30, 2015

Early Spring Garden and Thomas Jefferson

We seem to be providing habitat for Robins at our place.  Seems like every tree that's tall enough to support a nest, has one.  These are hatchlings from the eggs I showed you a post or two ago.  Mother Robin is being very patient with me.  In fact, if I'm out on the patio, sometimes she will come and hunt bugs in the yard just past the patio.  She lights on the ground and looks at me for a minute as if to say, "I'm off the nest now, so go take your pictures now, if you MUST".  Heh.

Two views from upstairs:

I watched Growing a Greener World on PBS last Saturday.  The whole show was about Thomas Jefferson and how he was America's first "Master Gardener" with his gardens at Monticello. HERE is their website.

Thomas Jefferson didn't use chemical fertilizers or weed and insect killers because there weren't any back then.  He fertilized with manure and believed the healthier the plants are, the better able they are to fight off disease and bug infestations.  Of course, back then, they didn't have a lot of the insects and diseases we have now.

He is responsible for introducing a lot of interesting plants from other countries.  A lot of what he tried to grow failed.  But he kept at it.  You know, we've talked about this sort of thing before.  Success is a product of persistence.

One of the interesting things about the show was that they talked about the detailed notes he kept on the garden and they mentioned that every Monday from spring to fall, he "planted a thimbleful of lettuce", thus assuring fresh lettuce all summer and into late fall.

I'm really bad about keeping up with weekly sowing of stuff like lettuce.  And I'd like to do better.  But I've always thought that it just got too hot here to grow lettuces during any time but spring or fall.  I've had beautiful lettuce turn into a weedy-looking, bitter-tasting monster plenty of times.  But Pinetree had some varieties that they said were slow to bolt and didn't get bitter when the weather gets hot.  So this year I'll see if that's possible here in Oklahoma.  

This is Pinetree's All Year Round lettuce.  It came up well for me and is holding its own in the sweet-potato bed. 

Isn't it pretty?     

Here is Jericho.
Supposed to be a COS type from the deserts of Israel.

This is Merveille de Quatre Saisons.  A bibb type lettuce that forms a loose 12" head.  I love the color.

There were some things that failed miserably, the most outstanding of which was Bok Choy.  They were growing in the blank spots in the sweet-potato bed, and went promptly to seed.  Did that last year, too.  I did a little research and found that Bok Choy has to have near-perfect conditions.  Well, that ain't gonna happen here.  Thus they made my "I Will Never Grow Again" list and were pulled.

Just this side of center are two rows of Tyfon or Holland Greens.  It's a brassica cross between Chinese cabbage and turnips.  Supposed to get quite large but I haven't seen that yet.  I've had several pickings off this and it is similar to turnip greens in texture but without the mustard-y taste.  It's supposed to grow quite large and be best as a cooked green.  Some say they like it better than spinach. 

And to the front is Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach, just a packet I bought at Atwood's, although Pinetree sells this seed also.  Of course we know that spinach is the food of choice for mice and rats so I've had a time keeping it from getting munched down to the ground and several of the plants have completely given up the fight to live through stuff like that.  I love spinach as a fresh salad, with Ranch dressing, thin slices of hard-cooked egg, and some salty sunflower seeds for crunch. I planted ten plants along the edge of the herb garden in the yard as well, and only about half have survived the Things That Go Chomp In The Night.

I have been taking small harvests from these plants since before they were even set out into the garden, and I figure they have already paid for the cost of their seed.  I gather the large outside leaves and leave the center to continue to grow.   So far that has worked out just fine.  A quick wash in cold water and a run through the Salad Spinner, then packed in a ziplock bag or a glass jar with a lid, and we have crisp lettuce whenever we want.  Some people vacuum seal a jar but I don't find that's needed for no longer than we keep it.  If you work and want to take salad for lunch, a jar is a good thing to pack it in.  Just put your wet ingredients in the bottom, and give the jar a good shake just before you eat it, right out of the jar.  Yesterday morning I picked enough to tightly fill a gallon-sized ziplock bag and gave that to Joe when he came over to borrow the rat trap and drown tank.  They have seen at least six at their place just across the road.  I told Joe, "If you've SEEN six, you probably have SIXTY".  We haven't caught anything lately and I figure the rats Joe is able to destroy is that many that won't be paying us a visit eventually. 

But anyway, I had picked from only half the lettuce row so today I can go out and harvest another bag for our own use.

One of the extra benefits that comes from having a garden is that often there will be enough to share.  Our neighbors are always delighted to get fresh produce.  Joe and Cathy don't like hot peppers, Bob and Sharry can't eat tomatoes and peppers.  Jay, on the other hand, loves peppers, so it all works out.  All of them got tired of cucumbers last summer, so I made Bread and Butter pickles, which Joe loves, and every now and then I take a jar to him. 

Spring has been cold for longer periods than our springs usually are.  If I had sown seed every Monday since starting these inside, by now I'd have so many little cups of lettuce that I wouldn't have had room for anything else.  But on Monday I sowed some of each of the three lettuces, in planters.  I will be pulling those that are growing in the sweet potato bed eventually to make room for the sweet potato slips, which will be getting transplanted in about May 15.  And then they will have to do some growing before they will need the space that the lettuces are taking.  By that time the lettuce in planters should be coming along, and they can be moved to the shade, or even inside, if need be, when the weather has heated up.

The peas and cabbages and potatoes are doing well, but there's nothing to pick yet.  That's them in the upstairs view of the garden: peas on the far left, then an empty space, then two rows of potatoes, then one of cabbage.  I still have quite a bit of sauerkraut left so I didn't start a great many cabbage plants.  I just want some to have fresh, like in cole slaw, and I want to try freezer cole slaw.  There are lots of recipes online for this and I can't recommend one over the other so at the current time my advice to you is to do what I'm going to do and that's just pick one that has good ratings on Allrecipes or Cook's or Taste Of Home or SouthernFood or whatever cooking site is your favorite.  I don't like mine too terribly sweet and some folks do, so I'll be watching for one with less sugar than some of the others.

I'm still enjoying asparagus, but it will be done soon, now.  You can pick asparagus until the shoots get smaller around than a pencil, or until they get woody, whichever happens first.  I saw bundles of asparagus at WMT a week or so ago, and the spears were about a foot long and 'way too thin.  I guess these commercial growers must be in a hurry to get their stuff to market.  I don't let the asparagus I'm going to pick get much longer than about 8".  Lots of people cut them with a knife but they break easily so I usually just break them off.  Maybe that's the wrong thing to do, but that's what Mom always did, and we enjoyed asparagus every spring, except for the fact that she always cooked the bejeezers out of it. 

The first planting of beets is up, but struggling because the dill seedlings just keep marching on and I haven't been able to get ahead of them because of the cold.  Then when the weather is warmer, I'm busy trying to get tomatoes and peppers set out.  I could use another garden hand right now.  The second beet planting is not up yet.

I am pulling out huge bundles of the Hairy Vetch that I sowed this time last year.  The jury is still out as to whether this was a good idea.  It seems to be companioning the Bindweed rather than discouraging it.  It does, however, shade out Bermuda grass.  I sowed Buckwheat and Field Pea last fall as a winter cover and I haven't seen emergence of the Buckwheat.  Field Pea, though, is now being pulled out.  I didn't think of this earlier, but if they bloom I might be causing cross-pollination with my garden peas, and I save that seed every year.  So that was a bad idea.  Some of these "new ideas" don't take into account the unique conditions that you might have in your garden.  I try to keep an open mind and give things a try on the off-chance that things'll work like they say it will.  This thing about not tilling in order to preserve the earthworms is making transplanting a lot harder, because now I have to pull weeds beforehand and that is getting to be a real pain in more ways than one.  So earthworms BETTER be making gold out of my soil, that's all I've got to say.  I admit the soil does feel better than it ever has, but the weed roots are really deep.  Maybe they have that mycorrhizal process going on.   HERE is an interesting PDF I found on the Internet about that.  Mulching works for me with some limitations.  Bindweed just keeps growing under it till it finds a light source.  I could pile on hills of mulch six feet high and there'd be Bindweed growing out of the top of it.

On my April 18 post, I mentioned about how Paul Wheaton said you could plant seeds from apples and have only a 20% chance that the fruit from the tree will be "spitters", in which case, the tree will still be a nice big shade tree and the wildlife will eat the fruit.  Plus it'll be a stronger, more drought-resistant tree because it hasn't been grown in some nursery, had its tap root severed, and then sat in a pot waiting for you to come along.  So when I went to Aldi I bought a bag of Fuji apples.  Then I went on line to see how best to handle the seeds.  The advice was mostly bad.  First, they said, remove the seeds from the apple and let them dry out.  No, don't do that, because some may be in the process of germinating, right inside the apple.  And if you interrupt the cycle by letting them dry out, the seed will be killed.  Quarter the apple carefully by cutting all the way around the apple, to, but not through, the core, and then break the apple the rest of the way apart by twisting with both hands, one half in the opposite direction of the other half.  This lessens the chance that you damage any seed that might be in the path of your knife.  Then remove the seed from the pieces of the core after you've cut it away from each quarter.  There weren't very many seed in the Fuji apples.  Most instructions said that apple seeds need winter stratification.  I decided to do a test because it looked to me like some of the seeds had split their seed coat already.  They all went immediately into a damp paper towel.

This happened within less than a week.  So much for winter stratification.  Maybe it depends on the variety of apple.  If they hadn't germinated, I could have transferred them to a sandwich bag full of damp peat, and put it in the refrigerator.  So, no risk involved in this detour.

Some of the seed had sent out a piece of root but there was no hint of cotyldons, and I planted them very shallowly in the cup.  The two that you see here already had cotyldons peeking from the split seed coat.  Those were planted with the seed coat above the soil line.  I'm thinking that maybe the germination in the paper towel saps their strength and some of them don't have enough oomph left to push up through a thin layer of soil.  The next ones I plant, I might just lay on the surface of the soil and barely cover with a thin layer of worm castings. 

Well, that's about it for now.  Till next time,

Rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. You've been busy and your hard work is paying off by the looks of your gardens and reading what you are harvesting.

    Have a lovely weekend ~ FlowerLady

  2. The garden looks wonderful! and the lettuces are beautiful. Remember, Jefferson had lots of slaves and he was no doubt raising food for a lot of extra people. It would be hard for two people to keep up with weekly plantings of anything I would think.

    I have never seen an apple tree self seed but the peach seeds I dump come up like crazy. I am just keeping two and cutting down the others that are beginning to shade the east end of the garden.

    We are finally due for a warm up this week. It is about time!


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