Monthly Archives: July 2014

A little back story

Here’s a little history about me.

I started growing food the same year I met the Stubborn Boy (SB). Actually, he had a garden first. He grew tomatoes, lettuce and peppers.

Before SB, I had tried, unsuccessfully, for years to raise just a few herb plants on my fire escape. Inevitably I would be in the middle of a three-day trip when I realized they had no water, only to return home and find a heap of limp, dried leaves slumped over tiny pots of parched and cracked dirt.  I knew nothing about growing potted plants, except that they were lovely and tempted me every year from the market shelves, and that I would kill them eventually.

But with SB, he had everything. He had huge pots filled with tomato plants, pepper plants, herbs; he even had a crabapple tree when I met him. I absolutely LiVED for climbing to his roof deck and watering the plants. Seeing the dramatic changes from day-to-day simply stunned me. And then I ate my first home-raised tomato and it was all over for me. I had found what inspired me; I wanted to grow food too!

Now here up North, gardens only grow for a couple of months, so as the next season approached (and SB and I were pushing into a second year of togetherness), I suggested we try to expand the growing to include other things we liked to eat. How about broccoli? Swiss Chard? Cucumbers and Zucchini? Carrots???  Thus began the experimentation and the education on how to grow. Having experimented with different growing techniques for the past seven years now, I realize what I like, what works for me and why. For example, I really like the bio-intensive, interplanting methods of Alan Chadwick, made accessible by John Jeavons and his “How to grow more vegetables”.

***Hey, Stubborn Girl. You lost me. What does all this mean? 

It means I don’t plant in rows. I plant everything really closely, in a diamond formation. It makes weeding a huge pain, but pretty much only until the plants get big and shade the space around them. Then it’s not such a problem any more.

IMAG1399

 

This is a photo of carrots, beets and Kale, planted under the pea trellis. Weeding the bed when it was just starting was challenging because it all needed to be done by hand, carefully as to not crush the little seedlings. Trying to do this under a trellis while not compressing the soil added even more obstacles; I started to feel like a contortionist trying to weed it. But after three weeks, it didn’t really need to weed it any more. The plants choked the weeds out. Yay!

The other major component to this method is transplanting vs direct sowing. In the Chadwick/ Jeavons method, they recommend transplanting (growing them in pots first, and then putting them in after they’ve sprouted) vs direct sowing (shove it in the dirt and see what happens) because it allows you to really get the max bang for your garden area. With either method, there are seeds that just won’t come up. Rather than sacrificing growing area to plants that didn’t take in direct sowing, you already know what plants are up, and you space them accordingly.  Look at the photo again. Those plants are in tight.

This year I’m pretty excited to try something I’ve read about for several years now. It’s called the Three Sisters garden bed. It’s a garden bed all interplanted between squash, corn and beans. The three were grown together in Native American cultures (or so the standard literature goes), and they grow together in harmony because the bugs that love squash hate the bugs that love corn, and both of those bug teams just can’t stand the bugs that like beans. So most of the respective gangs refuse to show up, eliminating a majority of bug problems.

Here’s how it’s looking so far…

Three Sisters Bed

Those are radishes growing around the pumpkins; I read that striped squash beetles don’t like radishes and will leave the plants alone. I admit, my squash, cucumbers and melons have attracted WAY LESS ATTENTION this year than last. It’s not foolproof, but I’ll take what I can get!

I’ll keep you posted as to how the bed grows this year!

My busy week…

Last Sunday in the middle of all the other chores we had to do, we realized that we needed to get the jam made if we were going to have anything to sell this year. Our own strawberry yard is not large enough nor established enough to harvest, so we decided to visit a U-Pick farm that we know about, and get the goods.

Stubborn Boy (SB) and I headed out to the neighbors’ field, and managed to harvest 21.5 pounds in just under 90 minutes. We came back with 16 heaping quarts of gorgeous red fruits.

strawberries

*They’re as sweet and tasty as they look!

We ran back to our farm where I pulled out all of the equipment for jam making, and got to work setting us up.

Water bath canning pot filled, check. Cleaned all the jars and checked seals, check. Start jars sterilizing, check. Get strawberries cleaned and de-stemmed. Check.

At this point, SB came into the house and took over so I could run back to the garden and weed the rest of the lower gardens’ pumpkin and melon beds. I also harvested some produce that was ready. Mostly swiss chard and spinach, and the last of our garlic scapes.

First large harvest

 

Go team!

SB got dinner ready while I finished outside. Then after dinner, jam making commenced.

I managed to batch 24 jars of our strawberry jam plus a few little jars as samples. I made a jam of strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and a splash of cognac. It’s a recipe I started making a few years ago. The cognac adds an extra depth of flavor to the jam; you can’t taste the liquor but it deepens the sweetness of the product. I hope you can try some soon!

I forgot to take a photo of the finished product. We had so many strawberries that I actually only canned half of them. Since I had so many berries left over, I actually pickled two quarts of them from a recipe I had found and made last year. You can find the recipe in another post, Canning Log July 30 2013.

The rest of the berries went into the freezer, to be made into a Strawberry Basil Basalmic jam. I’ll make it once the basil gets large enough to harvest.

So, that was my Sunday. I went to bed around 1 am; up at 6 am to drive back to Brooklyn and get ready for my three-day trip as a stewardess. I’m currently on same trip; it seems to be the only time I have to write these blogs is during my down time on a layover. ~Oh the glamour of being a stewardess…