Tuesday, May 31, 2011

CSA Harvest

Today's harvest:

1/2 lb salad greens
1 bunch red russian kale
1 bunch amethyst radishes

The lettuce bed has finally outgrown most susceptibility to wireworm damage and my outside spinach is catching up, too.  Kale, chard, cabbage, and broccoli are loving these warm, overcast days.  I am loving being able to harvest outside.  Today's lunch: cumin and ginger-spiced yellow split peas with wilted kale.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

CSA Harvest! And, cute children in the garden.

A hazy morning followed by a glorious sunny afternoon, here is what my day looked like in pictures:

 First radish harvest.  Amethyst radishes are my favorite for their color and sweet flavor.

Stella naps in between the cabbage, radishes, peas and strawberries.

CSA harvest!  Green garlic, rhubarb, radishes, first lettuce harvest, parsley, chives, and braising mix.  For lunch I sliced green garlic, cooked it until soft, and tore handfuls of kale and chard into the pan.  Top with butter and salt.  The life force.

Serena came over in the afternoon and then we had visitors: Sommer and her two daughters, Olive (with the backpack) and Hazel.  Olive is getting ready for her big trip to San Diego in two weeks.  She packed her bag today.

Olive and Hazel show me their "moves."  Hazel's moves usually involve staring.  Olive likes to kick and twist.  We all were amused.

Is their a better way to end the day than by tossing an adorable baby in the air?  I think not.  All in all, a great day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Great Transformation

After days of chipping away at my greenhouse, I am happy to report that it is now fully planted out in tomatoes!  What an exciting end to a week of beautiful weather - the clear skies and long, sunny days made moving tables and hauling flats of plant starts quite enjoyable.  While I was sad to lose the last of the spinach and and pea shoots, the arrival of a greenhouse of tomatoes means summer has really begun.  Here are some pictures of the transformation...

 goodbye, greenery.

 tables put outside, spinach and peas pulled.

 beds raked and broadforked.  One bed here is covered with a light-reflective red plastic that Casey brought back from the Exchange.  It's supposed to help with early fruit set, and at the very least will act as a weed barrier.

 Serena arrives to help me put the first plants in the ground!  Each start is soaked in a fish emulsion solution, then the bottom leaves are pruned off.  The plants are placed on their sides in shallow holes, with most of the developed stalk buried sideways.  Tomatoes produce what are called adventitious roots, meaning that fine hairs on the stem will turn into roots if buried underground.  This results in an overall more vigorous root system.  While at first the exposed plants  may lean a little, a few days of sunlight have them growing straight and true.

 Cherry tomatoes ready to go in the ground.  Note boombox in the background playing French pop music.  Tomatoes love French pop music.


I still have flats and flats of beautiful heirloom and thoughtfully-chosen hybrid tomato starts: Stupice, Legend, Sungold, Sweet Million, Black Cherry, Black, Black Krim, Druzba, Moonglow, Dagma's Perfection, Big Beef, Yellow Beefsteak, Red Brandywine, Taxi, Persimmon, Early Girl.  Please contact me if you're interested in purchasing some! 

In other news, our new farmhand arrived today from Austin, Texas.  Sara Joy reported that she left HER tomato plants with nearly ripe fruit on the vines.  So interesting to think that here I am on Orcas Island just waiting for my first harvest-worthy crop of radishes while folks down south are about to eat tomatoes, squash, and other hot crops that are still months away here.  I'm looking forward to spending Fridays in the garden with Sara Joy and picking her brain about what else she's already eaten that I'm dreaming about. 

Tomorrow represents the first time I will be at the farmer's market without produce to sell.  I am thankful to have bountiful starts, meat, wool, and honey, but it is a blow to the ego to have an otherwise empty table.  Another reminder of how far behind this season is from last year, when I had baskets brimming with salad greens, cilantro, kale, and radishes.  I tilled and planted as soon as I could, so now all I can do is encourage the starts that are already in the ground.  Oh well.  In the meantime I will rub some lotion on my sunburned shoulders and continue to encourage my tomatoes with the French radio station they have grown to love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CSA Harvest

It has been my intention to post each week's CSA harvest online so members (and friends and family) can see what is growing in the garden, and get ideas for how to use fresh produce.  It's taken me a few weeks to put my intention into practice.  In the meantime, here's what was picked today:

1/2 pound spinach - the last of my greenhouse harvest

1/2 pound pea shoots - toss fresh in salads, or lightly stir fry over high heat
1/2 pound braising mix - last season's kale tops, plus the first cut of this years kale and chard
1 bunch green garlic - mild garlic flavor, slice like a scallion or leek

Today I cleared out beds in the greenhouse with my dear helper Serena.  We are prepping to plant out tomatoes!  Temperatures over 60 degrees felt practically tropical, and the feel of sun on bare shoulders was absolutely delightful.  Keep posted for pictures of the transformation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

tomatoes! tomatoes! tomatoes!

Tomato seedlings in their trays, April 14th.  Seeds started in my bedroom March 15th.

 Tomato seedlings "potted up" into 4-inch pots, April 14th.  Watch them grow!

Tomatoes in the greenhouse, May 14th.  Strong and sturdy little plants.

I recently found a letter I had written during my first season working on Maple Rock Farm.  I described pruning and trellising tomatoes to my sister, how they are a little finicky and ultimately so rewarding.  Four years later and my love for tomatoes has only grown...  I might even say they are my favorite crop to work with.  I love their mystery, their persistence, and of course their fruit. 

All signs point that this season may be a challenging one for this heat-loving crop.  I grow all tomatoes in my 50-foot greenhouse, not even chancing a few varieties outside.  Our intermittent summer rains make unprotected plants more susceptible to blight, a fungus that in part is encouraged by water splashing up onto the leaves.  Sheltering them in a greenhouse not only protects them from wind and increases soil and air temperature, but means that I control exactly how and when they are watered.  Using soaker hoses drips water directly down onto the roots without spraying the plants themselves, and also allows me to "dry up" the soil in the fall to encourage more fruit set.  All in all, I am a strong advocate for greenhouse tomatoes in this zone of the Pacific Northwest.  Even home gardeners can construct simple shelters with tubing, greenhouse plastic, and sturdy clips to reap the benefits a larger greenhouse would offer.

The problem I am currently facing is that my greenhouse is packed with beds of harvest-worthy spinach and pea shoots.  My tomato starts are just rooting out through their 4-inch pots, meaning I need to either put them in the ground or pot them up into larger containers; this requires more time, more potting soil, and more space to store them.  While I may dream of multiple greenhouses, my reality is quite different.  I think I will do a final thorough harvest of all my greens and then clear them out to make space for the Great Tomato Transition.

It's always an exciting change, from the lush, jungle-like foliage of springtime greens to the early summer placement of tomato starts.  Maybe if I start planning for summer the weather will take notice and adjust itself accordingly... lately we have had days of driving rain and cool temperatures.  The other morning I had to remind myself that we were in the middle of May, not February or March.  Everything is growing, it is just growing... extremely... slowly.  At least my kale, chard, broccoli, and cabbage are happy.  I am thankful I took advantage of the dry days to till, set beds, and sow beets, carrots, and radishes.  They will catch up.  Someday.