New Year!

Well. Did I ever do terribly keeping track of last year’s garden.

Things that did well:

  • Tomatoes. The tomato bed did so well this year I feel like I spent half my summer roasting tomatoes and freezing the results. It was glorious. I plan on doing less large ones this year, though, and focusing on flavor for preserving.
  • Kale. Kale always seems to do amazing. Will do again this year. Lotta white cabbage moth caterpillars and eggs to remove, but that’s how it goes.
  • Swiss chard. I failed miserably at this in 2014, so I was pretty excited to do ok this year!
  • Dill. Aphids really coated these guys, but I plan on growing a TON more dill this year, because:
  • Cucumbers. I don’t love cucumbers, but wow do I love pickles (and wow did I make a lot of them!). Need more dill, more garlic, more onion, more more more.
  • Garlic. I decided to devote last year’s tomato bed (the south bed) solely to garlic. I planted the west half of the bed with cloves from this year’s harvest, and the east half with some Chinese pink, which should be ready much earlier in the season. Both have sprouted, but the Chinese pink is definitely growing much faster already!
  • Peas. Both snap and English, so great, always.
  • Summer savory. This was a total treat of an herb, I’d love to do much more this year. More herbs in general, actually.

Things that did not do well enough:

  • Zucchini/summer squash. We got a few, but nothing like the first year. On the bright side, I learned that 1 parts milk to 3 or 4 parts water makes an excellent spray to deter powdery mildew. Remind me to spray in advance this year.
  • Broccoli. We got one head, but the rest of the plants never really matured and they were magnets for those stupid white cabbage moths.
  • Carrots. Didn’t do so well with the carrots.
  • Onions. Only one Walla Walla made it, which I carefully dehydrated and have been using in pickles and dressings since. I think I’m finally out.
  • Radishes. We got a few good ones, but not as many as the first year.
  • Yellow pole beans. These were too tough, but grew super well.
  • Cranberry beans. I need to figure out a better way to dry these!

Drying Tarragon

Again with the food dehydrator. I’m going to run this machine into the ground!

The Internet says that tarragon doesn’t retain its flavor when dried, but I gave it a whirl last night anyway…and as far as drying an herb goes, it’s one of the easiest! The brittle leaves pull right off the stems with little trouble and little extra stem-y bits mixed in.

The smell is nice, so far, but I haven’t tried it in a dish. The real reason I’m trying this is because my favorite post-lunch tea at work, Tazo’s Refresh Mint, is just mint, tarragon, and spearmint. I have two of the three in my yard, so why not try a little homemade herbal tea?

Thyme Flowers

Now that I have a food dehydrator, I’m drying as many garden herbs as I can before they pass their prime.

Turns out you can dry thyme flowers…they’re edible and taste great! Plus allowing your thyme bush to flower doesn’t affect the herb’s taste, although pinching off the flowers may encourage the plant to grow more leaves. Which, not being a problem for me, I’ve decided to leave the latest batch of flowers on the bush.

Leggy Seedlings

Seedlings

My first attempt at growing from seed indoors: not so successful. Something I’d read said to expose the seedlings to light very gradually, but apparently? In Seattle, full light is probably not even enough for seedlings.

They got leggy. Tall, thin, and flopped over. The basil in the top row isn’t so terrible, and I’m starting a new batch tonight now that I know what the problem is. I’ve got these guys sitting on a desk in A’s room, and since there’s already a table lamp in there, I’m running out and buying a fluorescent bulb for it this evening. Short, fat stems: here we come.

Cloches! I Made Some.

Plastic cloche

The six raised beds have two half-circle metal rods criss-crossing the “inside” 2/3 of the structure. It makes for some very odd trellises and cloches, I’m finding out. I decided that since the rods made an X over the bed, that was essentially four triangle-shaped sides, which flattens to a perfect square.

Here, in case you need a visual aid: . Imagine the X in the center is a top-down view of my criss-crossing rods.

Now, this doesn’t take into account that two corners of my raised bed stick out beyond the square edges of my X, so I erred on the large size for each plastic square. A 10′ x 25′ roll of clear plastic sheeting got me two covered cloches, and I have almost enough plastic left over for a third. I plan on using it over another bed when it’s warm enough that I want to vent the beds but still protect the plants a smidge.

Because the plastic was a bit big, I used binder clips (I replaced these fancy guys with ones I found in the boat a few days later, plus neatened up the folds and arrangement overall. As you can tell, I’m using bricks to hold down the corners where there’s nothing to clip the plastic to. It’s handy, because I can just shift these bricks, fold back the plastic, and water my seedlings.

Speaking of, I’ve started a few hardier plants and so far, I’m seeing Green Arrow pea, arugula, and radish sprouts. I pruned back my tarragon to the ground, and it’s sprouting up nicely as well…along with some of last year’s damn borage, which I didn’t even notice until I uploaded this photo (the more rounded leaves you can see below are the borage sprouts). Too bad I don’t plan on putting the tomatoes anywhere near here!

Tarragon and some borage

First Indoor Starts!

First seedings!

Last Saturday my order of seeds arrived and I couldn’t help myself: I started a few seedlings using a kit I found at McLendon’s Hardware. I figured I’d be starting the majority of my indoor sowing later in February, so this was my trial run (and, an attempt to learn how best to stagger yields this year).

There’s a good mix going above, each plant is seeded in four peat…pucks? After soaking them for a bit, I put three seeds (well, two for each shallot, I ran out of seeds) in each puck and covered them with peat using a chopstick. I plan to pull out/snip off the weaker seedlings as they pop up.

There are three types of tomatoes: Siletz, Brandywine, and Mortgage Lifter. Obviously, I love tomatoes and would extra love to grow a million of them this year.

Next row down, there’s some Wild Garden kale (sprouting like mad by Wednesday, some of the others are still napping it off or playing it all cool-like, but not the kale), some chives, and Belstar broccoli. I already yanked out a couple weak kale starts, simply because they were already so obvious!

Finally, the bottom row uses up the last of 2014’s Megaton leek, Conservor shallot, and Walla Walla onion seed. I’m not so sure the ones I planted in the fall made it through the winter, and I’d really rather not go without.

Why’s the tray in such an odd spot? Well, between the dog and the cat, both of whom like to investigate and eat anything remotely green, A’s off-limits room near the heat register was the only safe, warm-ish spot in the house. A seed warmer arrives today! Along with some black mulch to whip the “other” bed into shape once and for all.

The Other Bed

Murray and the Other Bed

The six beds in Trivial Pursuit formation are what I focused on for the first year in the house. But there’s another bed on the south side of the garage, surrounded (and filled) with weeds and a long distance away from where the hose reaches. That photo above? That’s after the first weeding sometime last summer, which was exhausting. Most of it was filled with waist-high dead grass (you can see a little of it left in the upper left corner, I think I’d found a giant millipede on my shoulder and given up a little early that day). I also found a not-insignificant number of clumps of gone-wild garlic, from which I used the tops in whatever I was cooking that night.

This weekend, we had a small break in the rain so instead of taking the dog for a long walk (sorry, dog) I decided to weed out this bed for good. It was easier this time (and less millipede-y, although there were some REALLY fat grubs), and the number of little garlic clumps were fewer.

I was planning on planting my tomatoes here, but I’m less sure of that plan now. For one, the water situation—although on my long list of to-dos is to take advantage of Seattle’s RainWise program and put in a rain barrel. However, the more likely spot for the barrel would be over near the Trivial Pursuit beds, so…problem not solved. The other reason this was going to be the tomato bed: the previous owners cautioned us against planting tomatoes too closely to our other beds for disease reasons. The Internet seems to be calling bullshit on that advice, though? I’m not planning on growing peppers or eggplant or potatoes this year anyway! However, it’s a good amount of space for all those tomatoes I do want to raise, and I think the sun exposure back in this bed is wonderful.

Time to do a little research into what doesn’t mind being slightly neglected in a super sunny area, it seems.

I’ve ordered some black plastic sheeting to put down and halt those weeds (and warm up the soil), and some clear sheeting to create cloches on the Trivial Pursuit beds. Look how much I got done today!

Grass-free bed