Sunday, December 16, 2012

Garden Update December 15th 2012

Just for reference, I have 3 plots in my community garden, which I call plot #1, #2, and #3.  I'm also switching to the 'square foot" method of gardening after all my winter veggies and stuff has been spent.

I also have some containers at my apartment, which I call my apartment garden. I have not done updates on that in a long time, so I will in this post.

At my apartment, I have gradually taken out all the veggies and just made it for flowers only. It only gets like 5 hours of sun, so thats not enough to successfully grow vegetables. I do grow lots of herbs, ginger, green onions, and flowers, for my own enjoyment and use at home.

 So here are the containers, lined up against my railing.

This container has some rosemary, random cilantro seeds that started sprouting, and some green onions that I bought at the grocery store, didn't use up in my cooking, and instead of throwing it out when it rots in my fridge I stuck them here. They grew like crazy.

A small bunch of lettuces, lemon grass, and a red leaf lettuce and celery that I bought from the grocery store and decided to grow their stumps in my garden instead of throwing it out. I put them in a dish with water for a few weeks and once I saw some root development I put them in the dirt. I dont think they will produce much lettuce or celery for me, but at least I can get the seeds.

Pretty marigolds. They are so bright and happy looking. I got LOTS of seeds from these all ready.

Ginger I grew from a piece of ginger root from the grocery store. I did a post of this back in July I think. Back then it was just a little sprout. It is VERY cold sensitive so I have to bring it in doors on cold days and nights. It has to grow for 6-8 months before you can start harvesting any of the root, so that would be March for me.

I had some Packman broccoli seedlings left and stuck some in here so I didn't have to let them go to waste. They are small in comparison to the ones growing in my plots, but I have been able to harvest a few small heads. Now you can see its sprouting side shoots.

This is a pepper, and its a mystery to me. I sowed a packet of Carnival Mix Sweet Bell Peppers and only one seedling survived the heat, which was this pepper. Except this doesn't look at all like the Carnival Mix Bell peppers. Its long shaped like banana peppers or something. I dont even know if its a sweet pepper or what color it will end up being when ripe. They started out green as shown in the photo. I have to bring it inside on cold days and nights. If it is a sweet pepper then I want to harvest the seeds and grow more this summer.

This container is full of Burpee's Jewel mix nasturtiums, no blooms yet.

There is also some lemon grass I started from seed.

And 1 single Purple Queen Zinnia. Look more pink to me than purple. I had more, and lots of sunflowers, but I had some kind of pest, rat or mouse, I dunno I never saw the thing, that ate up so many of my seedlings before I could kill it. I had to buy rat poisoning, and then a few days later whatever it was stopped munching on my garden. By then it ate all the sunflowers, and chewed down a cabbage down to its stalk. This zinnia was one of many, but was the only one that survived. It had to be a rat or mouse because the thing chewed through tons of stuff in just one night.

A hanging basket with some sweet mint and lemon tyme.

There are also lots of tulip bulbs planted in each container which should sprout sometime in spring. I will have tons of flowers in it this spring. I'm especially looking forward to growing some snap dragons, gladiolus, and this awesome Queen Red Lime Zinnia, that I finally got the seed for.

Queen Red Lime Zinnia. I hope mine come out like these.

Now to my community garden plots.

All last week we finally had some cold weather! I dont like the cold weather, but my broccoli's do. I have a whole plot full of broccoli and red cabbage that was showing no signs of head formation. I think maybe the cold helped trigger head formation because now I start to see broccoli heads forming in my "Major" hybrid broccoli.

I was told that this winter here in zone 9b, has been extremely mild this year. I know that with some broccoli varieties they wont form heads unless there is some cold weather. I started the "Major" hybrid broccoli from seed. It was smaller in size compared to the "Packman" broccoli seedlings that I purchased from Walmart. I transplanted both into this plot the same day. I find it odd, that the broccoli I started from seed is producing earlier than the one I bought as bigger seedlings. Sometimes starting from seed is much better compared to things you buy. You know that you took care of your seeds throughout their growth, while the seedlings you buy could have been neglected a bit.

Both varities of broccoli were planted in this plot mid October, so they have been growing for about 2 months now.

This is plot #2, where all the broccoli is growing. The "Packman" hybrid broccoli is on the far left by the chicken coop, then there are "Ruby Perfection" cabbage in between the 2 varieties, and the "Major" hybrid broccoli is on the right. All of this was planted mid October.

I have plot #1 which was planted in mid September. I planted some of my "Packman" hybrid broccoli seedlings in this plot and I have harvested broccoli several times from these plants which are 1 month ahead.

Plot #2 full view. Compare this with the photo from last month:

Thats a crazy amount of growth! The angles of the photos are different. The bottom most round pot with the hose in it marks the beginning of my plot. I also fertilized this plot back in November for the first time so I'm sure that helped. I used Miracle Grow....unfortunately. I'm trying to learn how to make compost tea instead.

This is the middle of plot #2. Its a mess....I had no idea how to plan a garden, thus why I'm switching to the square foot gardening method.  Anyways, bottom left is Bibb aka Limestone lettuce, direct sown Oct 21st and I have been harvesting for a few weeks now. The bright red stemmed plants are Bright Lights or neon Lights swiss chard. I dont like swiss chard...I should have tried some from the grocery store before I planted it. It makes for a really pretty plant, but it tastes rather bland and bitter when its raw. Usually people cook it down, but I'm not a fan of cooked greens either. Well, actually I've never had southern style cooked greens. So I really cant say. Urgh, guess I will try cooking it in something like a soup, before I totally never grow it again. Anyone have a good swiss chard recipe? Please comment below. Anyways, in the very center is another Ruby Perfection cabbage. To the right of it are some Blue Lake Bush Beans #274, which have just started producing beans. Then you might see a black mesh trellis right next to the bush beans, to the very upper right corner, which has some super sweet 100 tomatoes growing on it. Then to the back of the cabbage in the center, is spinach, Salad Select from Burpee, and Bok Choi.

I love love love Blue Lake Bush Bean #274. Its perfect for small gardens. These plants look so healthy, are less than 1 ft tall, and are loaded with flowers. Its supposedly a heavy producer, which so far it looks like it will be. I try to use bush growing beans only because they take up less space in my garden. I hope to harvest a ton of beans before the end of December.

Close up of the spinach, direct sown October 21st. They have been very slow growing for me so far... I have been able to pick a few baby spinach leaves and eat them. They taste just like any other spinach, except this "Salad Select" leaves are a bit thicker than your average grocery store packed spinach leaves. They definitely grew a lot since I fertilized them. Spinach needs lots of nitrogen to produce lots of leaves. They have been shaded out a lot by the bush beans and bok choi. I removed several of the bok choi, another plant that I didnt really like, to give the spinach more light. The bok choi tasted just like the swiss chard, and is another green that is usually cooked. I wont be planting the bok choi again, the bugs ate them up like crazy. Last thing I need is a plant that attracts the bugs to my garden plot.

This is a close up of the super sweet 100 tomatoes. They are a vine type tomato so I have 3 of them growing up this cage. They have had lots of growth this past month. It took a while for these to take off after I planted the seedlings I started from seed, in the garden October 21st. Well, you shouldn't be planting tomato seedlings in your garden during the fall anyways...I thought they would grow fast and give me some harvest before they died off from the cold of winter. So far they have not died off and are still growing. They even have a few flowers starting to bloom so I should have some tomatoes soon if they continue to survive. As I write this, it has started raining and a cold front is moving in. I know January will be the coldest month so hopefully these tomatoes will make it.

Moving on to plot #1. Compared to last months image below:

You can see that compared to last month, I have more flowers blooming. The marigolds started blooming. I cut back the kale and purple alyssum to try and make it re-bloom. We also have lots of green growth, especially from the lettuces. I have been harvesting lettuces now. My sweet peppers are still producing and are healthy.

Here is a close up of the marigolds, and my first nasturtium bloom. Nasturtium leaves and flowers are edible. I tried the leaves, and they were shockingly peppery and loaded with flavor. I have not tried the flower yet, and I'm kinda hesitant. But I will.

So yea, thats it with the garden update.

On to another piece of news. I joined a garden forum called I Dig My Garden from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which can be found here:

I'm so glad I joined this forum because so many of my gardening questions have answers there or you can ask them. Plus they periodically do a free seed exchange within the members. The majority, if not ALL of my vegetables are hybrids, which I'm getting rid of because I want to save my seed every year. I dont want to be buying seeds all the time. So that means I have to invest in buying heirloom seeds. Its not like seeds are very expensive, but there is so much I want to try, therefore it gets expensive for me when I'm buying so much. So I just asked on the forum if anyone would be willing to send me some of their seeds if I sent them an envelope with the postage paid on it. I did not expect anyone to respond, two people did! I did not expect them to send me much, and the one that I have got so far, sent me a boat load of seeds. I was just shocked when I opened the package.

Look at all those seeds! And they were packaged so nice and neat. They even put photo copies of the original seed packets. I dont know how they were able to clean up their seeds so nicely, something I have to learn. I hope to be able to share my seeds with others, so this was a perfect example of how it should be done.

Included were: Cowpa "Black Crowder", Lettuce "Yellow Leaf Australian", Snow Pea "Oregon Sugar Pod II", Carrot "Muscade", Melon "Canary", Onion "White Portugal", Collards "Yellow Cabbage", Tomato "Fat Cherry", Bean "Dragon Tongue", Squash "Yellow Straight Neck", and Tomato "Pink Oxheart". Thats 11 types of seeds. A lot of this stuff I have never grown, seen, or eaten before. So I am very excited to try them all out.

I have never eaten cow peas before. I didn't even know what they were. Apparently, they are used just like you would black eyed peas. These peas love heat and are heavy producers. That is great for my zone because it gets very hot, so I'm glad I can grow some kind of pea straight through the summer.

This is a bush type bean. You can eat the pods like green beans if picked at an early stage, or you can shell the beans. These beans have amazing color to them (image below), and they are reported to be one of the best tasting beans.
Found this image online

I got these snow peas, which were on my wishlist at Baker Creek Seeds! I tried growing these when I was younger and failed miserably. I didnt understand that I cant grow certain things in hot weather and that these were a cold crop vegetable. So now I will wait until fall to grow these.

Found this image online.
 I also got some Muscade carrot seeds. These are super rare and are from Africa. These supposedly withstand harsh temperatures from cold to hot very well. Which is exactly what I need, since every day seems to be different here in zone 9b. Some days its hot, some days its really cold. They withstand some heat better than other carrots so I hope I can grow them for a long time. I plan to succession plant them so I can harvest carrots over a long period of time. I'm really excited to grow these.

Something I am not familiar with are Yellow Cabbage Collards. What do you do with these? What are they exactly? I read online that they are in the family of cabbages, and are instead loose leaf. Some sources online say that they form a "head". I'm not sure if its a typical cabbage head though. So does that mean you eat the leaves like you would cabbage? Or are these meant to be cooked down, like southern style greens? They are also reportedly rare to find. Its an old southern heirloom plant that is grown by old southern families who dont readily share the seed. Thats what I read online anyways. As far as I read, these are a cold weather crop so I have to wait until fall to plant them.

Yellow Cabbage Collards photo I found online.
Another person said they would mail me seeds. I'll post about what I got when I get them. I hope to grow everything successfully so I can trade or give seeds for free too.

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