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Posts Tagged ‘broccoli’

Lettuce, Broccoli, Peas, Strawberries … Post Produce!

The lettuce has been fine this spring, but that’s coming to an end. At least half of my romaine plants are bolting and my Ithaca lettuce heads are shriveling. Ithaca lettuce remains my favorite for flavor and crunch, though the heads tend to be small and loose enough that I often find critters living deep among the leaves. Record-setting heat is making the lettuce bitter, and I may remove the plants as early as this weekend.

That’s my Post Produce story for June. What’s yours?

Post Produce is my effort to celebrate homegrown food with other gardeners. On the 22nd of each month, I encourage bloggers of all stripes to post about whatever they’re eating from their own gardens. Posts can be status updates on what’s growing, photos of recent harvests, recipes that include your own fruits and vegetables, instructions for preserving your produce, and even articles about using your preserves. Write about what foods you’re using from your garden and/or how you’re using them.

Once your post is up on your own blog, return here and use the Linky widget (at the end of this post) to link a trail back to your story. I follow all the links and comment on all the posts, and I encourage everyone who participates to do the same.

What’s Ripe in my Small Kitchen Garden

The photos show what we’re eating from my garden, and captions provide a bit of information about each crop. I look forward to seeing what you have to share. Find the linky after my photos.

A few broccoli heads got away from me; they went from “looking good” to “oops, in bloom” just before I figured to harvest them. Still, my daughter’s 16th birthday dinner featured a head from my garden, and there are more on the way. Already, plants are putting out side shoots; we could be eating homegrown broccoli for many more weeks.

Is this not a lame strawberry? I bought a 25 pack of bare root plants and created a hanging planter out of a four-inch PVC pipe. The experience deserves a blog post or two, but this isn’t one of them. Sadly, the strawberries have been small. I hope to create a dedicated strawberry bed before next spring and use the plants from this experiment to get things started there.

Oh how I love fresh peas from the garden. Oh how I love fresh peas IN the garden. When I’m out there, I pop open pod after pod, scrape the peas into my hand, and pop them into my mouth. As a pod holds just a teaspoon of peas, it takes at least a quart of pods to serve a family of five. I once estimated that to feed a family peas once a week for a year, you’d need to plant a row nearly 300 feet long—the length of a football field. In a good year, I plant about 45 feet of pea plants and manage to freeze about a gallon of peas (after we eat another gallon or so).

Weren’t expecting blueberries, were you? Neither was I. Still, I found this handful of berries ripe on two bushes my wife planted at least a decade ago. We’ve been poor stewards of those plants, but I’ve read up on blueberry culture and hope to get decent production from them in coming seasons. I was surprised to find ripe berries because in past years I’ve seen robins eating unripe blueberries days before the berries would have been ready for harvest. This handful went directly from the photograph into my mouth.

Your turn to Post Produce. Link to your blog entry here:

 

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Small Kitchen Garden Bloom Day 11/11

This lone pink blossom is on a plant my wife set in one of her ornamental beds. A clump of buds just behind the blossom looks ready to pop. Forecast temperatures suggest the buds have a chance.

It was a challenging Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for this kitchen gardener. Mainly, my small kitchen garden was finished by late summer. Rain, blight, rain, mud, rain, rot, rain, insects, rain, and rain conspired to shut things down well earlier than in any previous year. After all that, we had a significant snow storm in late October when peak fall colors were just starting to fade. Oh, and guess how the weather was when I went out to take photos? Yep, it was raining and overcast.

It impresses me that anything is in bloom around here, so I stepped out of my small kitchen garden and scavenged blossoms wherever I found them in the yard. Most of what’s in bloom is in ornamental beds or containers, and it’s all barely holding on. Please enjoy what’s left of summer in my wet little chunk of central Pennsylvania.

A diaphanous puff of white clings tenuously to a stem just a few feet from the pink blossom in the preceding photo. The two blossoms are all that remain on annuals my wife planted in late spring.

There are four potted plants on our front porch. They might have served as centerpieces at some banquet during the summer. Two have wilted back to their roots (one I recognized as a begonia). The other two show signs of stress, but they continue to put out blossoms resembling asters; the ornamental-savvy among you will have to ID them.

The second of two potted plants on our front porch that continues to produce blossoms despite many overnight lows in the twenties and a significant snowfall in late October.

Somehow, this makes sense to me: the holly bush that came with the house is in bloom, though it has more buds than it has blossoms. Still, if it’s just blooming now, will berries form within the month? Come to think of it, in 18 years, I don’t recall ever seeing berries on this plant.

Rain stunted my broccoli this year, but one plant continues to taunt me by putting out tablespoon-sized florets.

In the department of confused, a forsythia in a back corner of the yard is in bloom. Is it because an unseasonable warm spell followed a cold spell? Is it because the rain paused for two weeks after the freak October snow? Perhaps this branch of blossoms thinks winter ought to be just four days long?

Nutmeg provided drama on this month’s Bloom Day. She happily accompanied me on my photo shoot and discovered poop in the grass when I paused to photograph the broccoli. If my dog is going to roll in something stinky, I choose carrion. Sadly, today she chose poop. She’s damp in this photo because I dragged her straight to the shower where she had the lather, rinse, and repeat treatment twice! I’m pretty sure the camera captured a smirk; Nutmeg has a lot of attitude for several hours after a shower.

Don’t Forget to Post Product Next Week!!!

Your Small Kitchen Garden blog hosts Post Produce on the 22nd of every month. Create a blog entry that shares what you’re eating from your garden-what you’re harvesting, what’s ripening, what you’re cooking or preserving, or even what you’re taking out of your larder for an off-season meal. Then find my Post Produce post and create a link back to yours. Follow the link here for find more information about Post Produce.

 

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Finally there’s Soil in my Small Kitchen Garden

When your broccoli seedlings remain in their very limited planter about a month too long, they might produce disappointing florets. This tablespoon-sized floret represents what each of my plants produced about three weeks after I finally set them in the garden. It didn’t help that I set the seedlings in soil that was nearly mud… or that several days of subsequent rain kept the roots far too wet. Perhaps as things dry out the plants will send up enough side shoots to make a decent meal.

Since planting season started some three months ago, I’ve reported again and again that there is no soil in my small kitchen garden. That’s right: where, every growing season for the past sixteen years there has been soil, this growing season nature replaced my soil with mud.

My Earliest Starts

I managed to plant cauliflower and broccoli three weeks ago while the mud was a bit dry (as mud goes). Sadly, the plants had been pot bound long enough that they were flimsy… and further rains stressed the plants once they were in the ground.

For the first time ever, I saw a rabbit chewing on one of my vegetable plants. In 17 years of kitchen gardening in Lewisburg, I’ve had rabbits nest in my garden and I’ve watched many of them feed on my weeds. This year the rabbits decided that broccoli and cauliflower taste good. I’ve since mended my garden fence.

Within ten days of getting their roots in the ground, my broccoli plants sent up center stalks bursting with florets… tiny florets any one of which would make a single forkful on a dinner plate. Had I harvested from ten plants, I’d have gotten a single serving of broccoli.

Then a rabbit decided that brassicas taste better than native plants and had a few meals in the mud.

My Small Kitchen Garden is Coming On!

There have been a few positives about this growing season:

  • I planted all the lettuce seedlings in planters on my deck and, though the lettuce is a tad bitter because of early heat, we’re eating fresh salads pretty reliably.
  • I started artichokes indoors. When I planted the brassicas, I also set five artichoke seedlings in the garden. Actually, I set three in a new bed near my rhubarb, one in the back of the new herb bed, and two in a two-gallon planter on the deck. One of the plants has already put out a choke.
  • Cilantro I seeded in part of the new herb bed is coming on strong. I’ll do a second planting in a week or so.
  • The volunteer dill seedlings I moved from my main planting bed into the herb garden are filling out nicely.
  • Thyme and tarragon I started from seed last year and set in the herb garden in the fall are growing strong. I may want to add more thyme plants this season.
  • The sage bushes I moved from an old half-barrel planter into the new herb bed in the fall have filled out and may soon need some serious pruning.
  • The mud is gone, replaced by soil. I’ve planted 55 tomato seedlings in the main planting bed and more than 24 chili pepper seedlings of four varieties.

It’s two months later than in past years, but my small kitchen garden is finally on its way!

I’d never grown lettuce in containers, but when my raised planting bed remained mud for the first two months of the growing season, I realized I’d have no homegrown lettuce if I didn’t try something new. We’ve had several garden salads but it has been very hot. Chances are the lettuce will bolt soon; I’ll probably plant again in August and hope to have plenty of fresh salads well into November.

 

Not my best photographic work, but clearly a choke has formed in my small kitchen garden. I love photos I’ve seen of artichoke plants, so I decided to grow some this year. I hope I see more food on them, but I’ll be happy if the plants mature and look at least vaguely like the ones I’ve seen on other blogs.

 

Yes, the soil is dry and weeds abound, but the dill seedlings I rescued from my main planting bed are thriving in my new herb bed. Cilantro I direct-seeded grows at the left front of the photo, and sage grows at the rear of the photo. Out of sight at the far end of the bed, thyme and tarragon plants are growing very nicely.

 

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Seedlings Want IN to my Small Kitchen Garden

I figure to set tomato seedlings in the garden in late May so I started seeds at the beginning of April. I love how a tomato sprout pushes up a section of stem and then eventually pulls its leaf tips free.

As a kitchen gardener, I get excited when the first seeds sprout in my office each spring. If I manage things well, those sprouts are lettuces and brassicas (cauliflower and broccoli). They can go into the garden more than a month before cold-sensitive crops such as tomatoes and chili peppers, and it’s great to give them a head start so they have plenty of productive time outdoors before summer heat shuts them down.

My Small Kitchen Garden is a Lake

I planted several varieties of lettuce in early March along with a bunch of broccoli and cauliflower seeds. They came on well, and I figured to plant them outdoors in late March or early April—about when I started tomatoes and peppers in my office.

I started four types of lettuce near the beginning of March. The Summer Crisp and Purple Leaf lettuces in this planter should have gone in the garden two or three weeks ago. We’d be eating fresh garden salads if we’d had about six inches less rain in the past month.

Here’s the thing: my planting bed has been too wet to garden. The longest gap between rainstorms in the past six weeks has been, perhaps, three days. Each storm has lasted at least 12 hours and deposited enough water to saturate the soil and leave puddles on top.

When I first plunged a garden fork into the soil and pressed down on the handle to loosen things up for my lettuce seedlings, there was a loud sucking noise. My soil contains a lot of clay, so if I work it when it’s wet I might just as well be making pottery as tilling.

My tomato seedlings are getting big enough to set outdoors and I’ll probably transplant them to larger pots in ten days or so. In the meantime, my lettuce and brassica seedlings are getting really annoyed. They desperately want out of their planters and into the garden.

The cauliflower and broccoli plants look nearly large enough to put up their central florets. If the garden doesn’t dry out in the next few days, I’ll move the plants into large pots on my deck; I’ve never grown cauliflower and broccoli in planters, but I’m confident they’ll do well that way.

Because the garden continues to remain under water, I may need to set my lettuce seedlings in individual pots and manage them on my deck. Otherwise, it may be so hot by the time the garden is ready that the seedlings will bolt and there won’t be any lettuce to harvest.

Broccoli and cauliflower are a bit more heat-tolerant, and they can go in the garden later. However, they also need more space for roots, so if these rain storms continue I’ll be potting up the brassicas about when I pot up the tomatoes.

Usually I push the season a bit and get my plants in the ground too early. The way 2011 is developing, I can’t get them in the ground early enough. With luck, the rain will let up before June and I’ll be able to set out tomato and pepper seedlings without resorting to SCUBA gear. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to consider growing rice in my small kitchen garden.

How’s your kitchen garden doing?

No, I’m not making it up: my garden is very wet. Word is that local farmers are two weeks behind because of the weather. After a full day without rain, there is still standing water in my main planting bed. Apparently, some types of weeds don’t mind having wet feet.

 

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A Small Kitchen Garden Broccoli Notebook

From time-to-time, I’ve grown broccoli in my small kitchen garden. This is an ideal vegetable for someone who hasn’t done much gardening, but there are a few things worth knowing before you get started.

Start from live plants

small kitchen garden broccoli

If you’re new to gardening and planting broccoli, do yourself a favor and buy plants already started at a garden store (if your small kitchen garden is deep in the city, you might have to start from seeds, but I’m encouraging you to make this as easy as possible).

Broccoli tolerates crowding

Instructions that come with the plant(s) or seeds will tell you to grow them two-to-three feet apart. I’ve crowded them to one-and-a-half feet between plants. Those plants have reached above my knee, and have produced a fine supply of broccoli spears. There are three disadvantages of crowding your plants:

  1. It will be hard to move between them… and a broccoli plant gets bushy enough that you might not be able to step over it.
  2. Disease can spread more easily among crowded plants than it can among plants that are spaced generously.
  3. The foliage of crowded plants can create a moisture barrier that may trap water and promote rot.

Still, I’ve never had a problem when leaving only 18 inches between broccoli plants.

Don’t harvest the plant

When that big crown of broccoli florets is perfectly ready (you’ll know it because it will look like broccoli you buy in a grocery store), harvest the crown, but leave the rest of the plant alone; the plant will produce more food for you over the next several weeks.

When you harvest, use a sharp knife to cut cleanly through the main stalk an inch or so below where the stem branches to the various clusters of buds. (Each little ball in a broccoli floret is a bud waiting to blossom into a small yellow flower.) Make the cut on a bias so water will run off of it easily.

Prepare your meal

Even if broccoli has never before grown in your neighborhood, the dreaded broccoli worms will find your plants. Actually, the worms aren’t so dreadful, but they’ve turned many a small kitchen gardener off to growing their own broccoli. These worms are smooth and green, and they tend to hide in the branches of broccoli florets.

broccoli worm

If you don’t want green worms to cook along with your broccoli, dissolve a few tablespoons of salt in a pot of water, separate the broccoli into serving-sized florets, and soak the florets in the salt water for twenty minutes. Almost all the broccoli worms will die and float to the surface. If you’re not convinced, inspect the florets before you cook them.

About aging broccoli plants

When you harvest the main crown of a broccoli plant, the stem becomes susceptible to rot. In a dry year, the plant may not rot at all. However, don’t be surprised if the stump rots from the center, creating a bowl that holds moisture promoting even more rot. At its worst, a broccoli plant decaying this way can smell incredibly bad… but it may continue to produce more florets on new stalks that grow from the side of the main stalk. If this happens in your garden, you’ll have to decide whether the sustained broccoli harvest is worth having such a stench in your small kitchen garden.

The photo of a broccoli worm (more properly known as the Imported Cabbageworm) is from the University of Kentucky Entomology web page: http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef300.asp

 

Here are links to other articles about growing broccoli and dealing with broccoli worms:

  • Broccoli Growing Guide – SOIL PREPRATION You dont need any special form of soil or location to grow broccoli. All it needs is the sunlight with some shadow shades of clouds. But dont grow broccoli under a closed compound. Use a little heavy soil which is not …

  • Some notes on the broccoli experiment – I thought perhaps that most people don’t grow broccoli in their home gardens because the plants take up too much space and only produce one big head, but from this spring’s sowing, I have had a constant (trickling) supply of broccoli …

  • The Great Bacillus Thuringiensis Story, no more Woms, non Chemical … – “When I realized I could grow broccoli without ever worrying about worms again, I wanted to get up and dance! No More Worms! For a long time I didn’t eat much broccoli. I planted a lot of it but each spring when my broccoli was starting …

 

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