Friday, October 20, 2017

Container gardening in autumn and winter

Many young cabbages growing in a cold frame
Spring cabbages in cold frame, Oct 2017
My classy cold frame (the base is a stripped down old sofa seat and the cover is a glass shower door) is currently filled with some very happy spring cabbages, some small cauliflowers for next summer, and self-sown miners lettuce.  It's got a few random calendula too.  I moved out half the cabbages in the photo above into the main beds now that all the potatoes are dug up (this year's Potatoes bed will be next year's Peas/Beans/Brassicas), in order to fit the cauliflower seedlings.  This past summer we had a couple really nice cauliflowers, grown over winter in the cold frame and planted out in spring;  I hope I can do it again this time.

I'm happy about the self-seeded miners lettuce too:  something keeps eating my pak choi and iceberg lettuce seedlings in other containers.  At least we should have some sort of fresh salad leaves, even if they are tiny!  I have a hard time keeping lettuces alive in general, though I had better success this year than previous ones.  There's also some self-seeded lambs lettuce in another container, which I'm looking forward to;  this self-sowing business is great!  Other self-seeders:  mizuna and chard.  Free food!
Close up of chicory heads, growing in a planter
18 month old chicory, Oct 2017
Speaking of containers, I've also got some chicory plants, sown spring 2016, finally ready to try forcing.  The instructions on the seed packet said to sow them in a seed bed in spring, dig them up in autumn to pot up and force over winter--it did not work out like that at all!  None of the in-ground sown seeds came up (slugs, I suspect), and I made another sowing directly in a planter, which all had grown about two inches tall by autumn.  Needless to say, they did not get forced.  But after more than a year, I hope they'll be good for it now;  I've never tried it before.  If they all successfully grow nice chicons, they should be good for about two meals, sigh.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

List of vegetables still to eat

A variety of prepared vegetables on a kitchen counter
Preparing vegetables for curry, October 2017
I've still got one more month of my No-Buy Vegetable Goal*.  Fresh veg from the garden is getting a little slim;  I have therefore compiled:

A Possibly Incomplete, Probably Inaccurate List of All Vegetables on the Property, Both Present and Projected

Now Stored Future
  • 5 winter squashes
  • 15 lbs potatoes
  • 5 onions
  • Lots of garlic!
  • 15 chard plants
  • 1 handful runner beans
  • 25 celery plants
  • 6 spring onions
  • 5 small zuccini
  • 2 handfuls carrots
  • 1 handful nasturtium leaves
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 handful arugula
  • 1 handful sweetcorn
  • 2 medium jars sauerkraut
  • 4 small jars pickled zuccini
  • 1 small bag dried peas
  • 1 small bag frozen broad beans
  • 1 small bag frozen runner beans
  • 1.5 medium jars pickled rhubarb
  • 1/4 large jar dried chard
  • 1/4 large jar dried nettles
  • 2 winter squashes
  • 4 chicory plants
  • 2 kale plants
  • 1 handful tomatillos
  • 2-4 rutabagas (swedes)
  • 2-4 turnips
  • Many miner's lettuce plants
  • 1 planter of lamb's lettuce
  • 1 tray of iceberg lettuce
  • 2 small summer cabbage
  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 4 small pumpkins
  • 1 handful beets
  • 8 sorrel plants (small)

Interpreting the above chart, I estimate we should have a month's worth of vegetables left.  I didn't list every vegetable still growing in the garden, as some (namely the winter brassicas and leeks) are almost definitely not going to be ready before the end of the challenge (20th November).  Some of the items listed under Future may not be ready by then either...

*Note:  as per the rules, we can still buy "salad" fruits.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Squashes and pumpkins, hooray!

Five small orange squashes on a kitchen table
Garden squashes and roses, 2017
 When I picked my green tomatoes because of blight, I also picked my orange squashes.  I was worried that the warm, damp conditions might make them go moldy on the vine (it's happened to me before).  I know squashes don't get actual blight--but I was ready to pick them in any case, as the leaves have been gradually dying.

I let them dry off in the sun on my patio bench for a day, then brought them indoors to store in the (warm) kitchen.  There they'll stay until we start to get low on more perishable garden produce--probably around the next few weeks, I should think.  Because temperatures are still mild, the garden's still producing a modest harvest every day, be it chard, carrots, runner beans, etc.  The squashes can store till these veg are over.
A round, yellow squash ripening on a small brick in a garden bed
Left on the vine for now
There are still two squashes that I know of, not fully orange yet, but nearly there;  they're on the vine still.  Seven squashes from about as many plants--not bad.  Certainly my biggest squash harvest to date;  my previous record was two.
Close up of an elongated pumpkin, growing in a container
It's nearly there!
As for pumpkins, they're all still on the vine, and only this one is going orange.  I think there are about four small ones, still resolutely green.  I guess they have time to ripen, but only if they're quick!  One--small cantaloupe size--seems to have stopped growing now, so I hope it's actually working its magic.
Close up of a patty pan squash
Summer squash, at last!
And finally I've got some of these patty pan squashes formed.  They were sown, sprouted, and planted out at the same time as all my other curcubits (zuccini, squash, pumpkin and cucumber), but only just began producing in the last week of September--I really don't know why they're so late--maybe the location?  They're in the perennials section not in the main veg beds, but conditions are pretty similar.  I've picked most of them small (golf ball size), but this one is about the same size as the winter squashes above:  between a large grapefruit and a small cantaloupe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Potato harvest, 2017

About 40 large potatoes, curing in the sunlight on a patio
Harvest from one Potato bed 2017
 I (well, mostly the husband) planted three beds of potatoes in spring this year.  One was in the main vegetable patch (pictured below), and the other two were in other, shadier parts of the garden.  The first batch in a lightly shaded place was harvested in early September and lasted us the whole month.
All dug up (cabbages in holding bed in foreground)
I dug up the second (main veg patch) bed last week on a nice sunny, breezy day.  I brushed off excess mud from the potatoes, let them dry on my patio for around 24 hours, and have now stored them in an old paper feed sack in my garage.  I expect them to last the whole month of October. 

Unlike the first batch, this second batch has some evidence of bug damage;  potato eelworm maybe?  But the damage is pretty mild, and there were only about five tubers I had to discard, out of about 50.

There's still one batch to dig up.  As mentioned in a previous post, I suspected blight at the end of September, so cut off all the leaves;  I also let the chickens onto that bed to help tidy it up for a few days.  I'll dig them up in a day or two.  I'm curious as to how this harvest compares to the other two:  it's the shadiest bed, but had loads of chicken manure on it the winter before;  the plants eventually grew about as tall as me--and I'm 172 cm!

Friday, October 6, 2017

September 2017 garden notes

Sweet corn plants growing next to a runner bean trellis with squash plants below
Three sisters: runner beans on trellis (far left), sweet corn, squash;  September 2017

Just celery and beets left in Roots bed, with a pot of spring onions and some carrots still in their planters.  I picked a few celery stalks and beets here and there, but mainly just harvested carrots from this section in September.  Green manure seeds broadcast in August still not made an appearance (should probably resow).

Peas and beans

Lots of runner beans at the beginning of the month, but slowed down by the end.  Letting a few grow on for seed.


Caterpillars mostly gone from brassicas by the end of the month.  We were still squishing a few at the beginning of the month.

Transplanted Brussels sprouts from the holding bed, to where the French beans had been.  Forming some small sprouts, but leaves still pretty holey from earlier caterpillar damage.  Purple sprouting broccoli growing nicely, and I staked it up.

Harvested a little bit of kale;  seems to be just one plant growing now after caterpillars.  Kale seedlings potted up, to hopefully be transplanted out soon. 

Planted spring cabbage in cold frame;  a few plants might go into next year's Brassicas bed (this year's Potatoes bed) in October.  Sowed cauliflower for next summer, which has now sprouted.  Pak choi in planter growing slowly--someone has been nibbling it.  I'm beginning to think it's not worthwhile to grow, as it always gets munched no matter where I plant it.

Turnips still very small, and nearly all leaf--a few have very thin purple roots forming.  About four rutabagas around 3-4 cm in diameter (pretty small still).  The last two summer cabbages still forming (small) heads.


Harvested a few handfuls of tomatillos:  tasty cooked in curry and stew. 

Regular tomato plants started showing signs of blight, so picked all the green fruits, chopped them, and froze for making green salsa later.  Put the plants in the council compost bin, which they collect every two weeks.  One plant left, in a planter;  its (sparse) fruit is beginning to go orange.  Only harvested 2 ripe tomatoes in total.

Harvested more cherry tomatoes in September.  A few cherry tomato plants also look a bit diseased, but still producing ripe fruits;  I've been picking off diseased leaves/fruits.  As we've already had a good amount off these, it's not a big deal if they die of blight, unlike the regular tomatoes which we still had yet to harvest.

Picked five squashes for winter storage;  I left a couple yellow/immature ones on the vine to (hopefully) ripen in October.  One pumpkin mostly orange, a couple other small ones growing but still green--none picked yet. 

Zuccini productive until about the middle of September, then pretty much finished by the end.  Four plants (out of seven) finally started producing female flowers in the last week of September.  Picked them just after flowering--too late in the season to really grow, but tasty anyway.

Sweet corn ears growing fatter but none harvested yet.  Plants got battered by winds, but still growing.  Leeks growing slowly;  about 8-10 left, after chicken damage.  One chicken seemed to have a vendetta against them;  she jumped the fence every day for about two weeks and scratched at them, even with wire mesh on top to protect them.

Radishes mostly finished by the end of the month.  Chard slowing down, but still being harvested throughout the month.  Winter lettuce very small but growing slowly.  Arugula and miners and lambs lettuce seedlings sprouted in cold frame and planters (self-seeded), started picking miners lettuce at the very end of the month.


One bed (in the perennials section) dug up at the beginning of September;  we only finished eating them by the end of the month.  The other two beds (one in and the other out of the main veg bed) had stems cut off and disposed of a few weeks into September, because blight was suspected.  Those tubers are still in the ground, to dig up in October.

I collected a handful of potato fruits to try planting next spring.


About five more alpine strawberries harvested this month, and one last blueberry.  Autumn raspberries forming but none ripened yet.

Harvested the rest of the plums and the last Sparta apple.  Harvested four more figs.  Williams pears and almonds still maturing.

Perennials and herbs

Artichokes still sturdy but not really grown much in September.  New asparagus plants still alive, still little and spindly.  Sorrel and rhubarb both alive but very small.

Cut back thyme, lemon balm, and rosemary;  rosemary had more die-back this month and looks very sad now--hope it survives.  Harvested dill seeds for culinary use, but will save some for sowing next spring.  Chives, mint, and tarragon still producing.  Mint, basil, parsley, dill (leaf) and summer savory produced a very small amount.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

September 2017 Food Totals

Purple plums hanging on a branch
Plums, September 2017

94 oz zuccini
67.5 oz runner beans
49.5 oz tomatoes (ripe)
14.5 oz onions
155 oz potatoes
37.5 oz carrots
118 oz chard
1 oz shallot
5.5 oz celery
4 oz beets
5.5 oz lettuce
1 oz radishes
1.5 oz mizuna
2.5 oz kale
9 oz tomatillos
137 oz tomatoes (green)
1 oz salad greens (leaf lettuce, baby chard, miners lettuce)

5 squashes (unweighed)

Does not include fresh herbs (thyme, dill, tarragon, chives, basil) which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Total:  690 oz, or approximately 43 lb

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 


1 blueberry
1 Sparta apple
5 alpine strawberries
16 plums
4 figs


Total:  107 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total)


1 medium bottle thyme vinegar
8 medium jars and 1 large jar unsweetened applesauce, from wild harvested apples
5 small jars apple jelly (more like thick apple syrup, actually)


Elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting. 8 L of cider begun (from wild harvested apples).  2 L cider vinegar begun (from leftover cider pulp).  Earlier batches of cider and cider vinegar still fermenting.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pumpkins, 2017

Close up of an elongated green pumpkin, growing in a planter
A pumpkin?  September 2017
My pumpkins (and squash too) were grown from my own collected seed this year.  Last year I managed to harvest two smallish pumpkins from my garden, and I saved seed from both:  the first pumpkin became a pie for Thanksgiving, and the second was baked some time after;  the second wasn't very tasty at all--I don't know if it was due to the length of storage (a couple months), or the pumpkin itself.  I still have its seeds, but we should probably just eat those too, and not keep for planting.

Still, one of this year's plants has been growing a very interesting looking pumpkin, pictured above.  It's kind of the shape of a zuccini--perhaps it's a zuccini-pumpkin cross?  By now it's even more orange, and is destined to be our Halloween jack o'lantern.  I like to carve our pumpkin on Halloween day and then bake and puree it the next--I freeze the puree for pie later on.
An immature green pumpkin, growing next to a lawn
Just a small one, September 2017
I have around six pumpkin vines in total--some in the ground and some in planters--and as mentioned previously, most of them are all leaf and no fruit.  A couple small fruits formed this month;  I don't really have high hopes for them.  It's just a bit too late, although perhaps this one above may have time;  it's around softball size now, but still completely green.  Though it's normal pumpkin shape, we may end up eating it (and its other, smaller compatriots) fresh like zuccini if it doesn't ripen fully.