Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finally, some gardening weather!!

I finally got a chance to make some progress in the garden this week. We've had some beautiful warm (actually, hot) weather. I missed the chance to work outdoors Thursday since the house was getting a new roof and it wasn't safe to be out working near the house (and there were 6 guys on my roof)- I just stayed inside for the most part. Friday, I made some progress. I got more seeds and starts planted, pulled a few weeds, added some more mulch, tweaked the trellises and generally cleaned up the mess I had going out in the garden.

I planted the started-too-early squash and zucchini a few days ago. Some have fared better than others. Both zucchini starts seem to have succumbed to the strong winds we've had and the pumpkins aren't looking so good. I think the spaghetti squash, butternut, watermelons & pattypan are going to make it. I direct-sowed a few seeds just in case. I also planted out the cucumber starts along with a few seeds. I planted seeds of Rattlesnake beans, the Zi Long Beans and I replanted the peas since they've not done much of anything and they've been out there a few weeks. I've had just a few that have broken ground. It is possible the bunnies discovered them and chomped them before I ever saw them since I actually planted them outside the raised bed. Oops..

It seems pretty much impossible to get an overview photo of the garden but this one gets pretty close. I've just caught the corner of a couple beds, but you can get a general idea of the plot. I'll try to catch the same angle later in the season when there's actually something growing out there to give it some dimension. I think if you click the photo, you'll get a bigger view.

So, here's one of my less successful beds- the asparagus I planted last year didn't do so well. I'm not sure if you can see but there are 4 spears in this bed. I planted 10 roots. Several didn't come up at all last year and I think these are from two roots. I ordered replacements but they won't come until next spring. The strawberries didn't fare much better. I've only got about 4 plants total out there from 25. I'm not sure what happened to them. Last year, they started out great then turned yellowish. I'm sure that was a fertilizer deficit but it seemed strange since all the new beds last year were filled pretty much the same and the other plants did fine. I lost most over the winter though. I have replacements coming soon.

The raspberry patch is filling in well. I planted 9 plants last year, one didn't sprout. There are lots more now. Hopefully I'll get some berries this year. Last year, my fall-bearers froze before they ripened.

The pots at the top of the retaining wall are a visual aid for planning the herb garden. It was supposed to go in last year but I never got that far. Right now, the only thing planted up there are the walking onions. Hopefully that will work out alright, those onions might not stay where I put them. They should be fine for a year or two I think, then they'll need some supervision or a dedicated bed of their own.

This is the salad bed. I've got Summer Crisp, Baby Romaine, Black-Seeded Simpson, Savanna Mustard & Teton Spinach in there. I started the seeds in milk jugs on the porch (wintersowing-style) and transplanted them a few days before I left for Montana. I'm finally seeing some growth. Hopefully I'll get some lettuce before it bolts. I also have a few Swiss Chard, Broccoli & Cauliflower in the other half of the bed. Of course, since I gave away my extra broccoli starts at the swap, 2 of the 3 have since died (presumably the wind, possibly hail). It's ok though, broccoli isn't my favorite anyway. I tossed in a couple more seeds for gee whiz yesterday.

This bed may become an interesting experiment in squash growing. I've got spaghetti, butternut, pumpkin (Small Sugar) and watermelon (Sugar Baby) in there. I debated which way to place the trellis and though it looks funny backwards, I think that will be more effective. I added string to it to give a little more climbing area. I need to find a couple more 2x2s and add them to the backside to make it more like a stepladder. It has at least stayed put with the winds we've had so far, unlike the actual ladder which I had to secure a little better. The jugs of water and rocks in the bed are to absorb heat to help keep the little plants warm at night. I need to work on a cover for this one though, my previous attempts have all blown off. Hail is bound to come along and I've got to try and protect the plants. There have been some devastating hailstorms around Denver and Pueblo this week. We got a little taste the other day but it stopped before it got too bad. Denver had 6" of hail on the ground and had to bring out snowplows to clear it.

The Red Pontiacs potatoes in the bin are starting to show some growth. The other potato patches are showing some green now as well. Once again, I've got potatoes scattered all around. I seem to have some self-control issues when it comes to buying seed potatoes. I was pretty good this year, I bought Red Pontiac, Purple Majesty & Majestic Purple (which may end up being the same as the Majesty, I'm not sure). I also planted the pantry-sprouted spuds from last year's harvest.

That's all I've got for today. It's been a slow spring but things are looking up! Soon, the tomatoes & peppers will be headed out the door.

Well, there is one more thing... this one can't wait for the veggies to get going!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spring Swap

This past Sunday was the annual Spring Swap for members of the Rocky Mountain Gardening Forum. The RMG folks have done a swap in the spring and fall for the past few years. This is my third swap (spring, fall, spring). This year, we met in Longmont. (about a 2 hour drive for me). We had a potluck lunch and time to visit for a while (finally getting to match faces to the screen-names we already know), then we started the plant picking.

The "rules" allow members to post offers and requests beforehand and to have items earmarked for them in advance. After we've found the earmark recipients, we draw numbers to decide the order of the draw. Each member who brought plants gives a brief description of what they brought, then, in the order of the numbers, each person gets to choose a plant. We do two rounds of picking by the numbers, then it's a free-for-all. I tried to copy/paste a few pictures from the swap (with permission by the taker, Laura_42) but I can't figure out how to make that work (I suspect Flickr doesn't allow it) so if you're interested, click THIS LINK

These are the goodies I came home with this year. Since most of the plants are small, it doesn't really look like a whole lot in the pictures there's really a lot of stuff in there (click the links to see what they should look like grown up).

This first picture shows the many May Night Salvia (which were sulking a little when I took the picture but look great now), I think I have 8. There's also a Pasque Flower, Balloon Flower, Clematis (Radar Love), Dianthus (Arctic Fire), and an Oriental Lily (specifics unknown).

Then there is a Chocolate Mint, Chives, Agastache Desert Sunrise, Viola, 2 Blue Fescue (Elijah Blue), a Gazania, 6 little Cosmos, a Zauschneria (Hummingbird Flower), a Rudbeckia Fulgida, 2 Anemone Sylvestris (Snowdrop Anemone), an Ajuga Replens 'Chocolate Chip', Black Cherry Tomato, and a start of Dianthus Simulans that I hope will take root.

Finally there's 2 Lamb's Ear starts, a few packets of seeds (cukes, beans & peas), and quite possibly what I'm most excited about, Egyptian Walking Onions. I got to be the third person to pick and they were my first choice. They didn't last long and those who didn't get any really hope there will be more at the Fall Swap.

All in all, it was a great day!!
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oh where, oh where have my wormy friends gone??

Ahhhhh.... home again! I'm back from a week-long trip to Montana. I left Colorado a week ago Tuesday, passed through cold, rain & some snow in Wyoming and got to Montana in time for a beautiful weekend! Hubby flew in from Korea and met me there to watch my stepson graduate from the University of Montana in Missoula (with high honors I might add) and to see my step-daughter get married in Great Falls. What a week! We're all back home now. I made it just in time for some beautiful Colorado weather!

Today, instead of unpacking or doing my laundry, I worked in the garden. I put up the ladder trellis and the other ladder-like trellis I built last year and hopefully have them secured in their spots. I planted the corn and watered the perennials. lettuce & potatoes. When I pulled back the straw mulch where I intended to plant the radishes & carrots, I discovered a little problem. The mulch layer I added in the fall had not decomposed like I expected. The corn bed was the same way but those seeds are big enough, I was able to fake it (hopefully) by planting into flakes of straw. I can't do that with my paper-towel seed mats. I ended up moving the mulch, digging out the fully composted lasagna layers of two years ago. I put the old stuff in a few large tree pots for temporary storage, dumped the mulch layer into the bottom of the bed, tossed in a few clods of sod from the front garden (they need to go somewhere...), watered it all and put the finished stuff on top to create a better planting area. Aside from doing something I thought I would NOT do (dig in my raised bed), I made a disconcerting discovery - my worms have gone AWOL!!

The bed I was digging in is the same one where I found the bounty of beautiful worms last spring (in the pumpkin shells). Sure, I've got some wrigglers in there but not the glorious gobs of them I was expecting. The deeper I dug the emptier it was. Truthfully, I'd suspect if asked, they might claim it was a hostile work environment as the bed and all the mulch layers were on the dry side. I don't think we had as much moisture this winter. Hopefully adding some moisture will bring them back. I will have to do some digging this summer and check on the troops, I may have to re-think some of my plans...

I was going to post this with no pictures but it just seemed like something was missing- so here you go- a couple pics from our side trip to White Sulphur Springs where we enjoyed a good burger and the hot spring-fed pools in a small town where there was nobody (read children) that we had to make any plans with- for just one night.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Maybe springtime will come to Colorado...

I feel like I am SO far behind getting the garden planted this year. The weather is just not cooperating this spring. We've had a few nice days here and there but then get hit with cold, snow and/or strong winds. Tonight's forecast called for the possibility of snow again. I FINALLY transplanted the lettuce & other salad greens from their milk jugs on the front porch this weekend. That's about all I've got out there. SO far behind!!

Seems like these guys should be almost ready to harvest by now. Oh well, I guess they'll do what they'll do... I will admit, I didn't try as hard to get plants out early this year but I'm not convinced I got very far ahead by putting plants out in the cooler weather. I've just been a little less energetic this spring. Our average last frost date is coming soon - THEN I will have to kick it into high gear.

The little raspberries are doing pretty well. All the plants survived the winter and look to be suckering nicely. These are Caroline (red), Anne (yellow) and Canby (thornless summer-bearing red). I've also got some garlic tucked around the edges. I decided to try that instead of planting in the garden beds. Since I don't plant a whole bed of garlic, I have to work around it (since it's fall planted) during spring bed-prep. I just have to make sure I'm paying attention and pull it before the tops die back completely and I lose them. Even if I miss them though, they do serve as a companion plant for the berries.

The jostaberries have started blooming this week. I'm excited to taste these as I've been curious to try them since reading about them last year. Jostaberries are a cross between gooseberries & black currants, neither of which I ever really eaten though I did taste a gooseberry several years ago. Even if I don't like them, they should create a nice green backdrop to the front flower garden (another project soon to get some attention) and unlike gooseberries, they are thornless.

The Saskatoon (Serviceberry) has lots of blooms on it though it's still a pretty small plant. I hope they grow more this year (second summer). This is the larger one, the smaller one doesn't seem to have blooms but I did see some new stems around the base the other day.

The daffodils & tulips in the back are in bloom now. These daffodils seem to come out a little later than some of the others.

I'm happy to see these tulips returned this year. I really like them. When they first came up, the blooms looked like they were going to be solid yellow. I was thinking the originals didn't make it and the offshoots came up plain but I guess they just don't turn orange until the blooms mature a little. Last year, my neighbor commented that these tulips seemed to almost glow in the right light.

That's all I've got for right now- soon enough though, there will be more...
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Monday, May 3, 2010

Cooking Spaghetti Squash

I've been meaning to post this little how-to for quite some time. I realized I'd better get on it - the squash are almost gone! I have two left and they'll be eaten very soon. I cooked one about a week ago and discovered one of the seeds had actually sprouted INSIDE the squash. The squash was still in good shape, no rot or soft spots but it was a little reminder that they won't last forever.

I'm actually quite impressed with how well they've kept. I picked them in October and it's now May. I had one that was starting to go bad a couple months ago but it was still good enough that I cooked it & added it to the dogs' dinner. I stored them under the buffet in the dining room. It's not near a heat vent, shielded from the sun and close enough to the kitchen that I remember to eat them!

If you'd like to see how they grew, check this link: Spaghetti Squash posts

I grew the Small Wonder variety of spaghetti squash. This is actually one of the smaller ones. It's little enough that I can eat it myself. While I normally have no trouble eating leftovers, when I tried leftover spaghetti squash, I wasn't very happy with it. I'd recommend only cooking half the squash if it's too big to eat at once. Scoop the seeds from the second half, wrap it & pop it in the fridge for another day or so.

Rinse the squash if needed and carefully cut it in half. Be sure to keep track of all your fingers, sometimes the squash are not the easiest to cut.

Scoop out the seeds (which you can cook and eat like pumpkin seeds if you want to) and place in a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high until soft enough to dent when pressed. I'll recommend a knife handle for this task though I often use my fingertip for this (and soon regret it). This little guy took about 9 minutes to cook.

Once cooked, I let it cool a few minutes then holding the skin with a towel, I scrape the stands out with a fork. Then add a little butter, garlic, salt & pepper & Parmesan cheese.

Top it off with a sprinkling of mozzarella.

Then bake until the cheese starts to brown.

I'll admit, this may not actually be the prettiest I've ever cooked- I used the toaster oven and then left it in a touch too long (I was chatting with hubby on Skype). It was still pretty tasty though!
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