Sunday, June 7, 2009

Strawberries, scapes, and our first tomato!

The beginnings of strawberry season, our first garlic scape sightings, and our first tomato of the season have followed one upon the other.

The tomato is fruit of one of the Glacier heirloom started plants that I purchased from Four Winds Farm. Glacier is a known early producer and it had already flowered when I bought it back in May.

Down to seeds and . . . well, at least down to seeds again

Friday night, we attended a nice night out with friends, gathered to celebrate the birthday of our mutual friend, Amy. Linda and I sat at one end of the long table with friend Kirsten and her lovely 3-year old boy, Will. Will and I spent the evening playing with the toy "digger" (backhoe) he had brought along and, since it was a Japanese restaurant, we also had chop sticks, one set modified for him by the chef that had a rubber band hinge on one end that facilitated our using it as a cherry picker for loading lumber (other chop sticks) into a dump truck (my cupped hands ;-)

Sitting with them brought to mind a recent thoughtful favor Kirsten had done for me. She belongs to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) provided by the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP). Knowing of my interest in local heirloom vegetables, she asked if I might be interested in purchasing some seeds from PFP's City Seeds program which provides an opportunity for local youth (14-24 years old) from Poughkeepsie and Beacon to participate in a local heirloom seed saving project. Of course, I was interested, and I bought the following 6 kinds of seeds (each packet cost $3 apiece):

Early Wonder Beets
Midnight Black Turtle Beans
Magenta Lettuce
Super Lakota Tomato
Prudens Purple Tomato
Gogosari Sweet Pepper (a Romanian variety brought here by one of the PFA members)

I'm probably only going to risk a few of the tomato and pepper seeds this year as it is late to be starting seedlings for them but I'll definitely be planting the lettuce, beets, and turtle beans, hopefully, this weekend. Can't wait to taste the results.

Speaking of seeds, I haven't bought many this year as I had a surplus of seeds leftover from previous years. However, I've been remiss and been putting off buying some Golden Bantam heirloom corn seeds recommended by Lee Reich. There are also a few other types of seed I'd like to buy for late summer planting but I never seem to find the time to complete the list and place the order. I still have some time before I absolutely have to order those other seeds but the time to plant corn is NOW OR NEVER!

So Wednesday night, after I did our food shopping at the local Adam's market, I wandered over to the gardening section of the store on the outside chance that they might have some Golden Bantam seeds. And, sure enough, they did! And they were Burpees's brand. Until then, I hadn't been aware that Burpee's was marketing a line of organic heirloom seeds. Sign of the times, I guess. I scooped up a couple of Golden Bantam packets, one of yellow summer squash, and one of French Breakfast radishes. All packets sold for $2.49 apiece except the radishes that went for $1.79. And I got my Wednesday night Adam's 10% discount!

Get yourself a columbine

We don't plant a lot of flowers around our house. At least not yet we haven't. We have planted marigolds and nasturtiums in the vegetable garden in the past. And we have echinaecia in our herb garden and usually a planter or two hanging from our front porch. And we have yearnings to do more. But so far, we haven't ventured too far into flower gardening. One reason being the futility of it. Our day lilies usually only make it to the bud stage or flower for a few days before they're mercilessly munched down by the local deer. In fact, we planted a bunch of Asian lily bulbs given to us by our dear friend Jodi, ripe with buds ready to flower, only to look out upon their chomped remains a week later. Makes you want to jack deer out of season ;-)

But one of our great flower successes is the result of a happenstance purchase of some columbines at an honor system farm stand near Watkins Glen when we we were returning home from visiting my aunt Bev and cousins Chris, Dave, Mike, and Theresa and their families at their family winery. Linda planted them up close to our house in a flower bed next to our well head and once a year around this time they bloom and provide us with a splendid bit of color and delicate beauty to consider. And the deer don't appear to like 'em! ;-) Just look at how wonderful they are!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Season's first salad

Last night, we enjoyed our first fresh-from-the-garden salad of the year: baby spinach, baby arugula, mizuna (Japanese mustard green), and some bunching onions (scallions) that had overwintered from last year's garden tossed with store-bought red onion, black olives, and feta cheese. Dressed with a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and fresh ground black pepper. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote back in April that my April 13th planting of lettuces and salad greens would be ready in 2-3 weeks. Wishful thinking, I guess (and not reading the seed packet ;-) It's been roughly 5 weeks since planting and though I've been munching on some of the salad greens right out in the garden for over a week now, the lettuces are only just now getting to the point where they can be clipped and harvested. In fact, besides pinching off a leaf here and there to taste, I probably won't harvest any for a salad for another week or two. (Note to self: Plant earlier next year ;-)

However, now's the time for me to think (and act) about succession planting all the lettuces and salad greens that I haven't already -- either with the same varieties or different varieties as taste dictates. I've already planted a second 2 rows of spinach and need to do the same for the rest. Succession planting ensures consistently high quality ingredients throughout the growing season and is one of the mantras of Eliot Coleman's (and really all good gardeners') approach to getting the most and the best out of the garden. As current crops fade, they're replaced by vibrant, tasty, new ones. And one's palate is the beneficiary! I'll be planting new rows of lettuces and salad greens this w/e.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lee Reich's annual garden and plant sale comin' up May 29-30

Lee Reich, author of several organic gardening and tree growing books (and one of my gardening mentors) holds his annual garden and plant sale on May 29 (5:30pm-7pm) and May 30 (9am-11:30am) at 387 Springtown Road, New Paltz (255-0417).

His ad in the Woodstock Times touts "currants, gooseberries, raspberries, and other delicious fruits, . . . hydrangeas, honeysuckles, . . . and much, much, more". If you're in the area, check out the sale. If you bring a copy of one of his books, maybe he'll sign it for you. Can't hurt to ask ;-)

Tipping point?

Well, it's 34 degrees at 5:25am, having dropped a degree in the 20 minutes that I've been up today. No sign of frost patches on the ground but there is a fine layer of frost on the car windshields that you can scrap off with a fingernail. All my plants are tucked in under 6 mil plastic which should have protected them overnight. Let's hope.

Right now I'm just looking forward to all the good weather that's set to come our way for the next 10 days or so. I think we've finally reached a seasonal tipping point (knock on wood!) with 70 and 80 degree daytime highs and overnight 50 degree lows for the most part coming up. Hurrah! I'll be planting my started plants in their beds this week ;-)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Four Winds Farm heirloom seedling sale

Photo courtesy of Four Winds Farm
Friday afternoon, I took the opportunity to run down to the Four Winds Farm at 158 Marabac Road in Gardiner, NY for their annual heirloom seedlings sale. Every year, on the third Friday and Saturday of May, Four Winds Farm, certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY, provides a large selection of started heirloom plants for sale. Everything is very reasonably priced: most varieties are available in 4-paks for $4 with some varieties offered as 1-paks for $2. Even though I start lots of heirloom plants from seed at home, I like to go to this seedling sale to find out about and try new varieties. Also, Four Winds' seedlings are weeks ahead of mine in terms of growth so I pick up some of their started plants just because I know they'll be producing before mine.

Friday was a gloriously sunny day making the drive down to Gardiner especially pleasant. I was in a benevolent mood after, along with another concerned motorist, successfully helping an ungrateful snapping turtle cross a very busy Rte 32 between Tillson and New Paltz. When I arrived at Four Winds, overflow cars were parked out on the road and plant-laden customers were making their way down the dirt drive from the orchard above where they had bought their seedlings. I decided to wait a couple of minutes while the young fellow at the foot of the drive used a walkie-talkie to let some cars out so I could drive all the way up to the orchard and park there.

Once out of the car, I walked by the woman selling maple products out of the back of her van and the cage full of brown runner ducklings for sale ($12 for one; $20 a pair) -- I wisely resisted the urge to buy a couple as birthday gifts for Linda but it was tough, they were mighty cute -- to rows of tables with hundreds of started plants: herbs, cukes, tomatoes, peppers, melons, eggplants, kales, lettuces. Alongside dozens of other prospective gardeners, I strolled a couple of times up and down the rows of plants admiring things before grabbing a cardboard carton and loading it up (twice!) before checking out. Here's what my $64 got me:

4 Pride of Wisconsin melons
4 Rocky Ford melons
8 Jimmy Nardello's peppers
4 Cubanelle peppers
4 Ancho/poblano peppers
4 Black Beauty eggplants (I goofed and grabbed the wrong 4-pak, I wanted the Rosita eggplants ;-(
4 Marketmore 76 cukes
4 Glacier tomatoes
4 Beams Yellow Pear tomatoes
4 Oregon Spring tomatoes
4 Opalka tomatoes
4 Aunt Ruby's German Green tomatoes (these are very, very tasty green tomatoes, excellent served on top of fresh mozzarella, sprinkled with coarse sea salt, pepper, and just a touch of olive oil)
4 Wisconsin 55 tomatoes
2 Tasty Evergreen tomatoes

Don't ask me where I'll find the room to plant all of these along with my own started plants! I already know I'll be building new beds to try to accomodate everything.

BTW, I've found Jay Armour, who runs Four Winds Farm, to be a really helpful fellow. In the past, when I've emailed organic gardening questions to him, I've always received prompt, useful answers. Besides producing organic vegetables for community supported agriculture (CSA) customers, his farm also provides organic beef, chicken, turkey, duck, and lamb for sale.