Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Happy Groundhog Day!

February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day is my favorite holiday, marking Imbolc, the halfway point between Solstice and Equinox.  By Saturday, Maine will see 10 hours of sunlight, increasing daily ’till June.

Normally, I’m not a fan of the garden-devouring little rodents, but on Groundhog Day, I set my animosity aside and make a temporary peace, despite Phil’s  many   past crimes.

Or maybe not.  Now that I think about it, I don’t think I can forgive him for eating to the ground the flowers I so carefully planted and tended for my wedding the year we came to Henbogle.  The ravenous, evil little rodent.

Nonetheless, spring is in sight.  Bring it on!

Maine Garden Day 2012

January 27, 2012

Maine Gardeners, save the date for Maine Garden Day!  This years’ event will be on Saturday, April 14 at Lewiston High School.

Dwindling seed diversity

January 26, 2012

As part of an article entitled Food Ark, National Geographic Magazine produced this great graphic demonstrating how hybridization is reducing the varieties of food crops.  A 1983 survey showed that since 1903 there has been a huge loss, of with over 93% of the 66 varieties in the survey now extinct.  The article highlights efforts to preserve genetic diversity in the seed supply, and is well worth a look.

The climes they are a-changin’

January 25, 2012

Come gather round, gardners, wherever you roam, and admit that the climate around you has warmed.

The USDA has released new climate zone maps which on the whole show a warming trend.  The Northeast is half a zone warmer than the previous map, released in 1990, indicated.  Henbogle has moved from 5a to 5b according to the new map.

While my oil bill might be smaller for this news, this really only has an impact for gardeners when considering plants that overwinter.  The increased temperature may mean a marginally hardy shrub or tree has a better chance of survival.  It doesn’t really mean the season will be longer, the frost later in the fall or earlier in the spring.  It might mean though that overwintered leeks are more successful.  It might also mean that some pests, reliably killed by cold winter temperatures, survive.  You takes the good with the bad.


Thanks Manny for the heads up.

2012 Vegetable planting list

January 21, 2012

Although Dan and I are going to be abandoning Henbogle for much of the summer,  I’m still planning a garden.  With my hoophouse, and judicious selection of crops, I should be able to produce some good eating in the spring and later summer.  My plan calls for a 3 distinct phases.

First, I’ll plant a mix of short and medium season crops, started early in the hoophouse, others outside as soon as the soil is warm enough.  The next phase will be to plant long season crops in the main garden and mulched heavily to keep weed down and soil moist over the summer months.  The third phase will be the harvest of long season crops when we return, and planting more short season crops for fall harvest, both in and out of the hoophouse.

One of my regrets this winter is I did not have enough planted in the hoophouse to take advantage of the very mild fall we had.  We had a killing frost of October 8, followed by 20 more mild days before a freak snowstorm on October 29, followed by another stretch of unusually warm weather.  Had I filled the beds in the hoophouse, I would have had some good eating in the fall.  Ah well, at least the beds are ready now for me to wintersow cold-tolerant veggies in February, in hopes of early spring veggies for Phase 1 of the garden plan.  Here’s the overall plan:

March 15 – June 15 — 90 days

  • Broccoli Raab — Sessantina Grossa 35 days
  • Mini Broccoli — Happy Rich 55 days
  • Broccoli — Blue Wind 49 days
  • Cauliflower — Snow Crown 50 days
  • Tatsoi — 45 days
  • Pac Choi — Shiro 30 days
  • Kohlrabi — Eder 38 days
  • Lettuces and arugula, etc, cilantro and parsley

June 15 – October 10 — 115 days

  • Brussels Sprouts — Diablo 110 days
  • Cabbage — Deadon 105 days
  • Cabbage Storage #4 95 days
  • Leeks Bandit — 120 days
  • Parsnip — Albion 120 days
  • Squash — Confection 95 days
  • Butternut — Waltham 105 days
  • Tomatoes –Cherokee Purple 72 days
    • Amish Paste 85 days
    • Speckled Roman 85 days
    • Rose 78 days
  • Dill — Superdukat 105 days
  • Parsley — Titan 75 days
  • Maybe some melon or other long season heat lover in the hoophouse

August 20 – October 10 — 50 days (but allowing for less sunlight closer to 37 days)

  • Broccoli Raab — Sessantina Grossa 35 days
  • Broccoli — Blue Wind 49 days (I can dream, right?)
  • Cauliflower — Snow Crown 50 days (more dreaming!)
  • Tatsoi — 45 days
  • Pac Choi — Shiro 30 days
  • Kohlrabi —  Eder 38 days
  • Mache —  Vit 50 days
  • Minutina — 50 days
  • Claytonia — 40 days
  • Kale — Red Russian 50 days
  • Cilantro — 50 days
  • Lettuces and arugula, etc

So, am I missing something?  Is this plan completely unfeasible, or might it work?

Harvest Tuesday: Purple Bok Choy

January 3, 2012

Weatherwise, it has been a bewildering fall and early winter here at Henbogle.  An early heavy snowstorm in October had me thinking we’d be in for it, but the snow melted and temperatures climbed.  A mere 8 days later, Dan and I were planting shallots in our shirtsleeves.  The day before Thanksgiving we got another big storm with 10 inches of snow, which disappeared a few days later.  It rained, the days were warm, the ground soft, the grass got green, I thought I’d have to mow the darn lawn.

We received a little snow to whiten Christmas, then a few days later it is 51°F and Dan and I are beachcombing??  Upon arriving home on Sunday, I peeked in the hoophouse and thought, I should pick those 2 bok choy plants.  I had left them for dead weeks earlier, but with the mild weather, had survived and even grown a bit.  Sadly, I got distracted, and did not pick them.  Monday night, temperature plunged again but today, after the cold night last night (high teens, brr!) Dan picked them when he got home from school and it was still balmy in the hoophouse.

My first harvest of 2012!  2 ounces of bok choy is destined for the dinner plate in a stir fry tomorrow for dinner.   Maybe we’ll finish off the last bit of Meyer Lemon Ice Cream from Christmas to celebrate the harvest.

Dilly Brussels sprouts report

December 11, 2011

ps:  The Dilly Brussels sprouts?

Amazing.  We didn’t have dill heads, so used dried dill weed.  Next year, if I am unable to use dill heads, I’ll add a few dill seeds to the batch, but these are delicious.  YUM!

Garlic and Shallots

November 7, 2011

Sunday I was able to get my garlic and French grey shallots planted.  Dan helped prepare the bed Saturday, pulling the remaining broccoli/cauliflower plants for the hens and weeding.  We expanded this bed a bit, and added some scrap lumber to enclose the sides, making it a raised bed.  We also, in a nod to hugelkultur, buried some old branches and woody waste we had laying about.

Hugelkultur is a form of composting that uses buried wood waste as a way of building raised beds that both drain well, yet retain water.  The wood, as it decays, both allows for drainage, yet absorbs water making it available to plants.  I don’t know that we used enough wood to make this work, but we what we had available that was already beginning to decompose.  Perhaps this will give this bed the edge over the summer when watering will be solely placed in the hands of Mother Nature.

Once the wood was buried and sides set in place we added more compost, organic bone meal and some Plant Tone fertilizer.  I smoothed the bed surface, and Dan and I used a piece of rebar to make a 6″ square grid.  It was getting dark and cold, so the planting waited until the next day.

That evening, I prepped the garlic and shallots.  I had set aside the biggest, most beautiful heads garlic I harvested to save them for fall planting.  I broke the heads open and selected the biggest, plumpest cloves, making sure the cloves were undamaged and showed no signs of fungal disease or rot.  You need to be careful when breaking the cloves apart not to damage the basal plate of the clove, which is where the new root growth will emerge.  Once the garlic was done, I sorted through my shallots to select undamaged medium sized bulbs.  With shallots, or so I have read, (cultivation information is not easy to find) the medium bulbs are preferred as they will grow into smaller divisions of large cloves.  Large cloves will grow into larger divisions of small cloves.  We shall see what happens.

I planted 50-ish cloves of garlic, and the remainder of the bed with shallots.  The garlic I set fairly deep at 3 +/- inches, making the holes with an old dibble, and the shallots, which are prone to rot,  just below the surface.  I then added a layer of straw from Henbogle Coop, complete with some hen dressing, which will break down over the winter months.  I’ll leave the mulch on until early spring, then rake it aside before the ground thaws.  One the bed dries out a bit and the shallots emerge, I’ll mulch again, probably with chopped leaves, for moisture and weed control.

Dan’s mom has agreed to harvest the garlic and shallots for me over the summer while Dan and I are on our road trip.  I hope I have a good crop with enough to share.

For the kitties

November 6, 2011

This is the second year I’ve grown catnip for the kitties.  I started it from seed and grew it in the raised bed area of the main veggie garden.  I haven’t had a problem with cats, perhaps because the garden is fenced in, but I’m happy that is the case. 

I harvested it earlier this year when the buds were well developed.  I cut several big bunches of it and hung it in the barn to dry.  Today I finally got around to processing it.

I simply rub the dry stalks between my hands over a large plastic tub.  Some of the stems break off, so I pick some out but don’t get too worked up over it.  Once the majority of leaves have come off the stalks, I give the stalks to Ocho, and crush the leaves up a bit more, then bag it.  This year I netted 4.5 ounces — that should be enough to keep the kitties happy for a while.

Final cut: broccoli and cauliflower

November 3, 2011

With temps dipping into the low 20s I decided it was time to harvest the last broccoli and cauliflower of the season.  The cauliflower seemed to have some frost damage but the broccoli was unscathed –from the frost, at least.  I do have some in the freezer, but I will miss the broccoli, which has been excellent this year.

If you look closely, you can see the broccoli amidst the kale, which looks a bit bedraggled after the snow.  About all that remains in the main garden is the kale a bit of Swiss chard, and some Brussels sprouts.

I have some Asian greens and lettuce in the hoophouse.  The snails and cabbage worms have done a lot of damage to the brassica family, but the lettuce is delicious, and unfortunately, disappearing all too quickly.


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