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Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

Well, The weather has finally warmed up a bit from the May snowstorms and rains so I finally got all of my potatoes planted. I put together 6 more tubes/cages so I would be able to plant all of them. I planted the first variety a month ago, then it got cold for a weekend, I went to visit my mom and sister over Memorial weekend so finally last weekend, I was able to get my gardening on. I wanted to clean out an area that was on the east side of the greenhouse to put the new tubes. Digging up all that grass was tough!! But I got it all out, chicken wire laid on the ground (to keep the ground squirrels from digging into the tubes from underneath) and tubes staked in and wrapped. Then I put mulch on top of the exposed chicken wire. Wrapping the tubes in plastic helps keep the soil from drying out and, as I have discovered, makes a slick surface so small critters can’t climb the wire of the hardware cloth tubes.

The grassy area that needed to be cleaned.

The grassy area that needed to be cleaned.

End of day 1 digging grass

End of day 1 digging grass

Finished!!

Finished!!

I must admit that I am an over-achiever when it comes to potatoes. I planted 19 varieties total this year. That’s really too many. Next year, I’m scaling back on the potatoes (she says now). But if you are a gardener like me, you just want to try them all. Most of the potatoes I planted are considered short season, meaning they can be harvested in 60-80 days. That’s just about right for this elevation since I figure we have an average of 90 frost free days a year. Once they are ready, I can leave them in the tubes even after frost (but not freeze) which will help set the skins for storage.

In other veggie news…….this year, I did plant carrot seeds in three of the tubes (not with the potatoes) and they are starting to germinate. My parsnips overwintered, but I am not sure how they will taste. They might be rather bitter. I harvested the first round of greens from the greenhouse today and those will go in the salad for dinner. My peas that are planted in the walls o’ water are growing well. They have not been discovered by critters. And all my garlic is finally up. I’m looking forward to scapes on the garlic soon……..they are wonderful in stir-fry dishes.

Next weekend I’ll plant the tomatoes and herbs that I’ve started. Those will go in the greenhouse. I changed up my tomato varieties a bit this year, using determinate and cold-hardy/short season varieties. I have several different varieties of basil, which will help make marvelous marinara in September. I also want to try some broccoli rabe, rapini and a purple broccoli, but I have to figure out where to plant it. I’m glad the weather is (mostly) nice enough to be able to get out into the garden now.

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I know it has been quite a while since I have posted anything here, so I figured that an update from the mountain was warranted. I was hoping to plant potatoes this weekend, however, the forecast is calling for a winter storm warning starting about 6 p.m. or so tonight and also forecasting low temps in the 20’s for the next few days. So I am going to hold off planting so my seed potatoes don’t freeze. And I’ll try to get them planted next weekend.

I’m changing things up this year. The past few years I have tried to grow tomatoes outside and last year had decent success for 8600 feet elevation. But this year, I think I will do tomatoes in the greenhouse only and am trying to grow cool season veggies outside. Three weekends ago, I planted pea, broccoli, chives, Chinese cabbage and Chinese mustard seeds in the area previously occupied by tomatoes. I diligently watered and covered them with the frost cloth (supported by the upside down tomato cages) in the hopes they would germinate. The tomato cages are serving dual purposes. The will hopefully support the peas as they climb and they are also supporting the frost cloth so it doesn’t lay on the seeds.

The following weekend I arrived home and discovered the toll the hellatious winds had taken on my frost cloth and tomato cages. All the tomato cages were blown over, the frost cloth laying on the ground and a ground squirrel running for its burrow. Not a good start to the weekend. I was very disillusioned. But as a gardener, never say never. And as my husband says, you can’t rush the season up here.

The same weekend I planted pea, etc. seeds, I also planted parsnip, carrot and beet seeds in three of the tubes that I used last year to grow potatoes. I am also making more cages/tubes for potatoes and other veggies as these seem to work really well, especially if I use chicken wire under the tubes so the ground squirrels and voles can’t tunnel up under and into the tubes to eat the veggies.

Last weekend, I changed out the soaker hoses, replaced some of the hose fittings and started watering again. I left the frost cloth off the seeds since rain was predicted for this week. And, indeed, this week there was a nice bit of rain that watered the seeds and this weekend I see one variety of peas are starting to sprout as well as the Chinese mustard and Chinese cabbage. The garlic that I planted last fall is finally starting to nose up out of the ground. The shoots are about 3-4 inches tall. I’m encouraged!! There is progress in the garden.

I’m also getting the greenhouse ready for the warm season plants. Since the soil temperatures and even the air temps don’t get warm enough for warm season crops, I grow them in the greenhouse. I hope to have a fabulous crop of pepper varieties this year. I want to try my hand at canning salsa this year.

I’m pretty sure I won’t get anything else done in the garden this weekend with the storm coming in, so I will take the opportunity to make some comfort food for dinner tonight. Once I get the potatoes planted, I’ll post an update on the varieties.

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Today’s post is a mish-mash of information and random thoughts on the progress of my veggie garden.

The greenhouse tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are doing great.  I have several Roma tomatoes on one tomato plant and there are lots of flowers on most of the other tomatoes.  The eggplants are all flowering and I hope some of them will be setting fruit.  The peppers are all flowering as well and I even have a few little nubs of peppers starting to grow on some of them.  I definitely learned my lesson from last year and am leaving the greenhouse door open all the time so that the bumblebees can get in to pollinate and it doesn’t get too hot in the greenhouse.  I also planted a couple of cucurbits in the greenhouse this year in hopes of getting some summer squash and pumpkins.  I planted an heirloom variety of zucchini, Costata Romanesco and the best pie pumpkin ever, Winter Luxury, in the greenhouse.  I can trellis the cucurbits like I trellis the tomatoes in the greenhouse and the critters can’t eat them either.  I harvested quite a bit of basil this weekend from the greenhouse.  There were several different varieties and they all smelled wonderful.  This harvest I am just drying down to use a dried basil through the winter.  I also planted fennel in the greenhouse and it loves it in there.  The plants are starting to form nice bulbs.

Outside in the garden, most of the potatoes are looking wonderful.  I had four varieties that have never sprouted, so even though I thought they had eyes, they must not have had enough ‘ooomph’ to get them up and out of the soil.  Of course, this doesn’t mean I won’t get any potatoes, because I do still have 9 other varieties that are doing wonderful.  I planted some pole beans and peas along the cordon system that I set up for the grapes that I removed earlier this spring, and of course, they have been eaten by some critter.  They germinated well and I was hoping to get some produce, but doesn’t look like that will happen.   I also tried to plant some winter squashes outside along the same cordon system.  It appears that critters will eat the cotyledons of the cucurbits as the seeds germinate, but once they start producing true leaves, they leave the plants alone.  The leaves of cucurbits can be a bit prickly and not at all palatable to critters.  I do have a couple of Kabocha and Acorn squash that might survive, but I don’t think I will have a long enough season for them to set fruit.  I may have to transplant them to the greenhouse if I can find room in there in order to get some winter squashes.

The tomatoes and eggplants outside seem to be doing well.  I do have one tomato fruit on the ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato.  This past weekend I put a floating row cover over the tomatoes to help protect them from the cool night temperatures.  The temps at night are starting to dip into the 40’s and 50’s and this can inhibit the tomatoes from flowering.  I am hoping that the row cover along with keeping them in the walls of water will keep enough heat on the tomatoes that they can produce quite a bit of fruit.  I had a setback when I planted them since we had a dip in the evening temps on June 10th and it settled on a few of the tomatoes and actually killed them.  I lost a ‘Mr. Stripey‘, ‘Brandywine’, ‘Zapotec’ and one of the Romas.  I replanted with a couple of tomatoes that I got at the store and some ‘Indigo Rose’ that I had started in the greenhouse.  Hopefully the row cover and walls of water will extend the season so I can get a lot of tomatoes.

My garlic will probably be ready to harvest in about a month.  The tops have not started to dry down yet, but they did produce scapes, which I cut off and have been using in several dishes that I cook.  They impart a very nice, mild garlic flavor to omelets and salads.  I even used them as a substitute for chives on a baked potato.  I am thinking I might try to find some garlic to plant now, so it has time to set roots before winter hits and I might actually get an earlier harvest next year.  I also have a lot of volunteer potatoes in the allium area.  Apparently, I did not get all the potatoes harvested last year from this area before I planted the garlic.  It will be interesting to see what varieties they are.  I kind of remember what I had planted where, but not totally.

The apple trees all survived the winter, which is good.  They did have some flowers on all the trees, but when we got that frost/low temperature night in June, it killed all the flowers, so there will be no fruit this year on the trees.  It is probably just as well, since root establishment for the first couple of years is more important than producing fruit.

I am getting a lot of weeding done in the vegetable garden and it is a good feeling. I can look out at the progress and it feels great.  I am adding more mulch to the areas that I have weeded to help keep any future weed growth to a minimum.  It is a very noticeable difference in weed growth, the areas that have a lot of mulch vs. the areas where the mulch has thinned.

As the summer moves along, it will be interesting to see what happens.  I’ll be keeping you posted.

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……….well, almost the first of May, but who’s counting?  The days have been pretty warm for this neck o’ the woods and the garden is starting to show its colors.  The garden got a perfunctory going over yesterday afternoon.  The daffodils by the greenhouse are blooming as are the daffodils in the perennial bed in the big garden.  I hope all the hyacinth bulbs I planted come up soon.  They smell heavenly and will definitely provide a burst of color to the garden.  It looks like 11 out of the 12 surviving roses from the trial are coming back in good shape.  The canes are starting to green around the crown and there are new leaves forming at the base of the plants where they are protected from our cool night temps by the mulch.  Buds on two of the four apple trees are swelling.  The grapes didn’t get inspected very well, they need more time to show if they are going to survive or not.  There are quite a few green tops showing in the huge allium bed that got planted last fall, so even if everything that got planted doesn’t come up, there will still be plenty of garlic.  It’s really nice to see some green out there.  I need to check the soil temperature to figure out if I can plant potatoes yet.  This year, after planting, once the potatoes sprout, I want to start ‘hilling them up’ and covering them with some straw so the potatoes don’t turn green by being exposed to the sun.

The perennial beds next to the deck of the house are starting to show activity as well.  The peony that was planted last year is coming back.  There are four, reddish colored shoots peeking out from the mulch.  The roses in this bed look like they have survived as well.  I didn’t see anything on the Cheyenne Mock Orange shrub, but I said that last year and it came back like gangbusters.  The lambs ear has survived wonderfully well and I can’t wait for the iris to start blooming.  I got anxious yesterday and finally bought some pansies for the deck, but think I will keep them in the greenhouse for another week or two just to make sure the cold temps don’t take them out.

It’s also time to start clearing out the greens in the greenhouse.  There is a great crop of mesclun mix and microgreens, but the containers need to be cleaned out for the herbs that were started.  I just hope there is enough room for everything in that greenhouse.  This past Friday, some of the veggies that got started in a different greenhouse got transplanted out of the plug trays up to a larger size pot so they can start putting on some healthy roots.  Tomato varieties for this year include ‘Black Krim’, ‘Brandywine‘, ‘Speckled Roman’, ‘Italian Roma’ and ‘Zapotec’.  I may also try a couple of other varieties of tomatoes as well.  There are four varieties of eggplant, ‘Long Purple’, ‘Nadia’, ‘Beatrice’ and ‘Rosa Bianca’ along with about 6 different varieties of peppers.  I may have gone a bit overboard on the basil this year, planting 9 different types of basil, but it is a wonderful addition to most dishes, so I don’t think any will go to waste.   As usual, I have probably started too many veggies and herbs, but I can always give them to friends to plant if there is not enough space in the garden.

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Here at our elevation, it is quickly becoming fall.  The aspen are starting to turn, night temperatures are consistently in the 30’s now, with a few dips into the 20’s.  Daytime temps are in the 50’s and 60’s (all temps in Farenheit) so it is still nice, but not warm enough to grow many more vegetables outside.  In the big garden outside, all the frosted veggies from labor day weekend have been torn out, the walls o’ water are emptied and in storage for next year.  The shallots are harvested even though they will have to be treated like scallions/green onions.  It never did get warm enough for them to form true bulbs like the ones you see in the store.  The shallots are definitely going to have to be eaten fairly soon.   The white onions are all harvested and actually had some decent size bulbs, although they could also have used some warmer temperatures.  I noticed on the onions that something had been feeding on the leaves, but all they did was pull the bulbs from the ground without eating the bulbs and just left them lay on top of the soil.

Sixty purple hyacinth bulbs got planted this weekend as well.  In the area where the wall o’ water veggies were, are the new bulbs. Hyacinth are also deer resistant, so hopefully they will survive in good shape.  They are planted to the correct depth, watered in and covered with a nice 3-4 inch layer of pine mulch.  If they are anything like the daffodils, flowers should start showing in June/July of next spring. 

Another project this weekend was cleaning out the greenhouse.  All the warm season veggies (tomatoes, peppers, etc) have been replaced with freshly planted greens (mesclun mix, micro-greens and arugula) for some fall, cool season fresh produce.  All the herbs that were left in the greenhouse were also harvested (basil, sage and parsley) and they have been used to add fresh flavors to all the cooking this weekend.  Now I just have to remember to water the newly planted seeds in the greenhouse so they actually grow.  The heater in the greenhouse has been replaced with one that has a fan to circulate warm air since the nights are so cold.  It would not do for the greens to freeze.   

All in all, a productive weekend, looking forward to some fresh greens and perhaps, after some research, there will be other seeds that can be planted in the greenhouse for fall harvest.

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Herbs, etc.

This week it’s all about maintenance and tidying up last minute plantings in the greenhouse and outside gardens.  My 2 Earth Boxes® of various greens are starting to bolt (produce flower heads) from the heat in the greenhouse, so those greens are going to come out and be replaced with an herb garden.  Outside I have a few large pots sitting around the garden, so a couple of the herb plants will be going outside to see how they survive.  I have heard that deer and other rodents do not like scented or strong tasting plants, so we’ll see if the basil and oregano survive.  The nighttime temperatures are still getting down to about 40F so that may be more of a factor in the survival of the plants than herbivory.

This year there are five kinds of basil.  Thai basil is an attractive ornamental & culinary basil, intensely sweet, with anise-like fragrance.  The leaves become purpler towards the flowers.  Spicy Greek Globe basil has smaller leaves and a spicy flavor that complements any tomato dish.  This is an excellent container plant due to their ‘globe’ or mounding growth habit.  If you don’t have room for a traditional garden, this is a great plant for gardening on a patio or balcony.  Genovese basil is the traditional Italian basil that one finds in the grocery store, with large green leaves and a mild flavor that can be used in salads or pesto. It is slow to bolt.  Red Rubin basil has consistently deep purple leaves with a traditional flavor and aroma, similar to the classic Genovese basil.  A new variety this year is Cinnamon Basil. This is a tea basil used in flavoring mediterranean and mid-eastern style dishes.  It has dark green leaves with a wonderful fragrance and distinct cinnamon flavor. 

Along with the basil are the herbs oregano, cilantro and rosemary.  The basil, oregano and rosemary will make the classic italian tomato sauce to accompany the tomatoes that are planted and the cilantro will work well for making pico de gallo with the tomatoes, peppers and onions.  Hopefully there will be plenty to harvest and we’ll be eating fresh veggies by mid-summer.

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I purchased the greenhouse from a friend of mine for not a lot of money, but have spent about 6X the amount improving it.  The greenhouse itself is 6′ wide x 8′ deep.   We replaced the original glass panes with 1/4″ plexiglass panels screwed into the frame to withstand the wind that continuously gusts up in the mountains.  The roof consists of 1/2″ plexiglass panels and the entire frame is bolted to 6″ x6″ timbers using rebar as an additional anchor which contributes not only to stability, but raises the greenhouse so we have easier and taller access.  The floor of the greenhouse is pea gravel to help with drainage.  Watering is done by hand and everything is grown in containers.  As one is looking into the greenhouse, the left side has one large, circular container and 2 Earth Boxes® sitting on the pea gravel.  This is the tomato area.  Tomatoes are warm season vegetables and usually need at least 75 days to flower and produce fruit so the greenhouse is optimal.  If you don’t have a greenhouse, container gardening on a deck or area close to the house will work nicely.  The tomatoes should be fairly protected and can be brought inside at night if temps are anticipated to go below 40F.  A frost cover can be useful as well to keep tomatoes growing.  An old bedsheet will work well or there are commercial covers available.  Just make sure that there is support for the cover so it doesn’t crush the tomato plant.

Other vegetables that are grown inside the greenhouse include greens (lettuces) in the spring and fall (the greenhouse gets too warm in the summer), herbs such as basil and cilantro and eggplant.  New this year in the greenhouse are cucumbers, summer squash and a variety of winter squash.  The squashes will also be planted outside this year to see how they survive the mountain climate.  Potatoes are planted outside as well.  There is quite a large patch for growing potatoes and this year we have 7 varieties of potatoes to try out.    So far the potatoes have been ignored by deer and ground squirrels, so I hope I am not pushing my luck this year.  There are occasionally a few bites taken out of one or two of the potato tubers by voles, but they don’t generally eat the whole tuber or eat the foliage so we usually get a good potato harvest.  Also trialing this year are garlic and onions outside.  I tried onions once a few years ago but the ground squirrels ate them so we never did get a harvest.  We’ll see how they do this year.

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