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I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

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Sprouts

Amazon.com is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.

 

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Posts Tagged ‘spinach’

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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Watering Your Small Kitchen Garden Revisited

Your Small Kitchen Garden blog recently received a question about watering. The question was fairly general, and I ended up writing a detailed answer that would make a good post. So, here it is:

Rain in a Small Kitchen Garden

In early spring, young spinach sprouts pop out in the bottom of a furrow in my small kitchen garden. I deliberately plant in furrows and basins so water will collect around the plants and soak in there.

Ideally, it will rain on your garden, and that will reduce your need to water. Sadly, it may rain too much on your garden as it did for most of us in the northeastern United States in the summer of 2009. Once you’ve planted your garden, there’s little you can do when it rains too much; roots may drown where water collects and foliage may rot. Molds such as late blight thrive in wet growing seasons.

So, plan your garden with torrential rain in mind: don’t place beds in low spots. Better still, build raised beds that assure roots won’t steep in standing water should it rain heavily one year.

Optimize Water Use

Your plants will appreciate good drainage. As a favor to the environment (and to your finances if you use tap water in the garden), optimize the garden’s use of whatever water it gets. Assuming the garden bed drains well even in torrential rain, set your rows deeper than the surrounding soil. This means your plants will grow in the bottoms of troughs. For an individual plant such as a tomato, eggplant, squash, or pepper, create a small depression—a basin—with the plant in the middle of it. These low areas will collect rain or hose water and give it time to soak in around the plants’ roots.

How much Water is Enough?

As for knowing when you’ve watered enough? I wrote an earlier post on the topic titled Watering Your Small Kitchen Garden. My approach isn’t rigid; I simply try to keep the plants alive with the least amount of watering they’ll accept happily. I note the weather and I watch the soil and the plants. If there has been no rain in several days and the soil looks dry… or worse, leaves are starting to droop… I water heavily. If there is a sustained dry spell—several weeks or more with little or no rain—I change my watering strategy: I water lightly every morning. The idea is to provide just enough water on top so that any moisture that is already below the surface stays there.

Whenever I water, I target the soil line of my plants. If it’s a tight row of greens, carrots, peas, and such, I distribute water evenly along the row. If I’m watering individual plants such as tomatoes, squash, and peppers, I make sure the water lands where a plant emerges from the soil. There may be a relative desert between my tomato plants, but the soil extending a foot from the stem of a plant receives several light waterings a week during a dry spell.

Spot Water Your Small Kitchen Garden

It’s important to note: when I water, nearly every drop ends up in the depressions in which the plants grow. For heavy watering, I try to fill the trench that defines a row, or the basin holding an individual plant. After that soaks in, I fill the trench or basin again. For light watering, I may not fill the trenches and basins, but I direct the water into them.

Finally, I can’t emphasize enough the advantages of mulching close to your plants, and mulching heavily. Having a lawn, I believe, is a horrible affront to Planet Earth. However, as long as I have a lawn I’ll use grass clippings to mulch my small kitchen garden. Lawn clippings, fallen leaves, newspapers, cardboard, black plastic, pine needles, pine bark… come up with something that’s easy enough to manage that you’ll actually manage it. Mulch lets water through to the soil and significantly reduces the amount that evaporates on dry days.

I shot this sequence of photos one day when I was watering some newly-planted tomatoes. The photo on the left shows a tomato plant in its own basin freshly filled with water. Subsequent photos show the basin over the next 40 seconds as the water soaks in around the plant.

 

Further thoughts about watering and responsible ways to conserve water:

 

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