Thursday, April 30, 2009

Garden 4/30/09

The warm spell helped some things in the garden really get going. The arugula and lettuce seem to have recovered from transplanting too early.

Carrots seed on 4/11 sprouted on 4/25. The seeds got dispersed a bit erratically by the rain. I'll have to do some thinning later on.
The radishes have taken off in the heat. It also helped my second sowing of them sprout in 5 days.

The garlic is taking off as well.
Cooler temperatures are in store for the rest of this week, but the row cover should keep everything protected.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quince Bush

The quince bush is one of many plants around here that have really enjoyed the five-day heat wave we recently had.

Here are the buds on 4/11,
and 4/18 after the rain,
and on 4/28 in full bloom.

I hope we get lots of quince fruit this year. Quince jelly was the biggest hit of last year's canning season and we'd like to make more this fall.

Also blooming in the yard is the forsythia. It's like a ball of sunshine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Recent plantings include:

5 blocks of golden beets
4 blocks of sesame seeds
10 blocks of Sugar Snap Peas
Dill and Cosmos inside the cold frame but in the soil where they will remain
Radishes inside the cold frame
3 Sorrel in the raised bed
14 Broccoli Raab Quarantina in the raised bed( We tried Broccoli Raab just before a recent seed order so I ordered some)
9 spinach in the raised bed

Here are the seedlings as the progress. Most have moved out into the cold frame for this hot weather. The tomatoes will probably come back in as the weather is supposed to cool starting tomorrow. If the photos aren't identified in the text, hold your cursor above them and a label will appear.

The peppers and some herbs are the only plants that have remained under the lights. Today my second pepper sprouted. It's #4. I seeded these back on 3/27 so that's a month germination. I'll be starting peppers earlier next year.

The sesame seeds on the right are ones I started from seeds bought in the bulk section of the local coop. I'm also starting some that I ordered and I'll be comparing the plants. If the harvest goes well I should have plenty of black sesame seeds for topping rye bagels.

My "Sugar Daddy" Snap Peas that I seeded in the garden had horrible germination. I had the same problem with them last year. I planted between 20 and 30 seeds, the rest of the packet and have two seedlings with no signs of any more coming. So I've started Sugar Snap Peas in soil blocks. Here I can see that the seeds are putting down roots and beginning to send up shoots. I'll transplant them to the row shortly after they sprout.

The tomatoes seem to be making slow progress. Last year I planted out seedlings in the middle of May with walls of water around them. I'm not sure these are going to be ready to put out then. We may have to wait until after my last frost date at the end of May.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cold Frame Details

So finally I have a chance to write the details of our cold frame construction. I've been wanting one for a while and my husband finally agreed to help this week during my vacation and before he starts a new job. We saw a few windows advertised on Craig's List but they were hours away. So when we took our recycling on Wednesday we looked in the area where people bring scrap metal and windows. There we found 3 large 25" x 40" wood frame windows with solid glass and no panes. They looked perfect. And best of all they were free.
We came home and made plans, figuring out what lumber we would need. We used the basic design from Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest. Of course the details are lacking and depend on each individual situation. We planned to have a 2 X 12 for the back and a 2 X 8 for the front. We used the rest of the 2 X12 cut at an angle for the sides. We wanted 2 X 2s for the cross brace supports that also hold the hinges but the hardware store only had 2 X 4s. So Matt had to rip them with the circular saw into 2 X 2s.

It took quite a bit of figuring to decide how the hinges would go on and where the cross braces would be so that the windows would be as close together as possible. We also wanted to make sure we could reverse the way the windows fit on for another location where the wind might be different. As you can see, we didn't have a flat spot in the basement where we did the cutting of the wood to lay it out. We ended up using the empty spot in the dining room.

Matt used the jigsaw to cut notches into the front and back pieces for the cross braces to fit into. We finished cutting all the pieces, including trimming some extra wood off the windows so they would lie flat. Taking Eliot Coleman's advice, we assembled it with all the flat pieces on the floor and then flipped it to put the cross braces in and windows on top.

We put the hinges on the windows and frame while it was still in the house to make sure it would work, but then took them back off to get it out to the garden. While the windows were off, we tacked scrap wood to the base, so that it would be in contact with the ground rather than the frame itself.

After getting it into the garden, Matt made three props for the window and devised a way for them to hang inside the frame when not being used. You can also see we moved the wireless sensor from our thermometer inside so we can keep track of the temperature. We won't know the true temperature outside, but we'll know what it's like the the cold frame.

We also added handles to the windows. All the windows have a groves in the side where the pulley system ran. Before you could just stick your fingers in the grove to lift. However, we figured in winter, it would be much better to have a handle.
For the spring we've placed the cold frame on a spot where there used to be a raised bed. Last year my mystery plant and onions grew there. This year I'll use it for starting seeds and then herbs and flowers. We plan to move the cold frame to the southern most bed in the fall and hope to harvest into the winter. I'm very thankful for all my husband's time and effort in building this with me. (I did contribute by holding wood as he cut and hammering a few nails).

Cold Frame Finished

Here's the finished cold frame in action. I moved some hardier seedlings out into it last night. The lows were in the 40s. Of course today's highs are going to be 80 * F so I'll have to leave all the windows propped wide open.

More details about its construction and features later, we're off to a wedding today.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coming Soon....

Coming soon to a garden near me...... a cold frame!!!!
We picked up these three 25" x 40" windows at the recycling center yesterday. Today we got lumber and worked on it. Finished photos to come tomorrow when we get it out into the yard.
While I was washing the windows for the cold frame, my husband made me a soil blocker out of scrap wood. I've been looking for more black six-packs to start seeds in but unable to find them without buying trays. I don't need trays since salad boxes work great for that. So the soil blocker is the solution to not buying more peat or black plastic pots.
The immediate need was a place to plant sesame seeds sprouted in a wet paper towel. My first set of sesame seeds never sprouted so I got fresh ones from the store. The fresh ones sprouted. However, I ordered sesame seeds for planting yesterday because I hadn't checked them in a few days. I'll have to seed the ones that come in the mail and compare them.
Here are my first two soil blocks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rain Drops

As I went out to check on the garden this morning, the raindrops on the sedum caught my eye. I returned for the camera and spent a while photographing the delicate drops of water on some of the more interesting plants in the yard.
The buds on the flowering quince bush.
A leaf of a daffodil.The leaf buds on the rose bush.
And another sedum.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yogurt Chive Cheese

I read this article on the NY Times about making your own yogurt last week. I'd read about it in the past on other blogs (The Frugal Girl has a more detailed set of directions) and decided that this week's break was a good time to give it a try.

I used one quart of milk and heated it over medium heat until it reached 180-190 *F.
Then I put the pan in the sink with cold water and stirred until the temperature lowered to 120 -115* F. I stirred in two tbsp of store-bought yogurt with live cultures.
I wrapped the quart jar in kitchen towels and placed it in the oven for 5 hours. The yogurt was still thin, but tasted like mild yogurt. After refrigerating it thickened up some. It is still on the thin side compare to store bought products. Since I had yogurt, we decided to make some recipes that used it. We already had planned to use some of it for Chicken Tikka Masala later this week. I had some over granola for breakfast. The NY Times linked to a topic list where you could browse recipes with yogurt and I came across a few for yogurt cheese.

I started with just 2 cups of yogurt because I was just experimenting with the yogurt cheese for the first time and I didn't want to use all of my newly made yogurt. Next time I'll use 4 cups because the cheese disappeared fast.

I lined a strainer with about 8 layers of cheese cloth and put the strainer over a bowl. I poured in the two cups of yogurt. I put it all in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the solids remained in the cheese cloth and the whey was in the bowl. (This photo is the morning after. When I first put the yogurt in, it almost filled the strainer).
I turned the cheese out into a small bowl.
I added chives, salt, and black pepper. After mixing, I spread out a sheet of plastic wrap. I ground pepper on to a central area and then piled the cheese mix on top.
Then it was rolled up into a log shape.
We ate it on stone wheat crackers and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can't wait until we have other fresh herbs growing in the garden so we can experiment with other variations. Now that we made cheese with the yogurt, I decided to go ahead and make another batch of yogurt to have on hand.