Green House Lettuce, Bok Choy & Chard on 3-31-14

GH lettuce 03-31-14

Holy Schmole! My lettuce, in the picture above was planted as transplants back on February 17th and look at it at the end of March. Fantastic! So excited to not have to buy lettuce and greens for a while. I’ve been experimenting in the greenhouse planting some seeds and some as transplants. I got these transplants as little tiny plants in pony packs from Agua Fria Nursery in town in February. On the left is Marshall Red Romaine. In the middle is ‘Winter Wunderland’ leaf lettuce and on the right is Bright Lights Chard.  They are growing in the middle raised bed where I had horse manure composting in January to try to add heat to the greenhouse but in mid February I took out as it cooled down and took all but the top 6 inches and added soil and compost and waa lah! You can see how big they got since March 21 here.

mesclun

Here is a pic of the lettuce I planted by seeds. It is a mesclun mix from Johnny’s called, 5-star lettuce mix. It’s not quite tall enough to ‘cut and come again’ but will be soon-probably in the next week.

 

dwarf bok choi

Here is a variety of dwarf bok choy (choi) I planted from seed. I will transplant some of these to sell a little later and the rest will have room to really get bigger. They are doing really well.

yellow green bok choi

I love the color of this yellow-green bok choi – chartreuse! Such a great contrast to the other ‘greens’.

tatsoi

Here is a variety called tatsoi-the hardiest of the bok choi family. It grows in little clusters.

I planted all of them on the edge of the raised bed as I’m going to put in some tomatoes soon  in the middle of the bed as another experiment to see how they do. My thinking is by the time the tomatoes need more room, the cold hardy greens will be done (eaten)  🙂

Spring has Sprung! Boing!

lettuce

Chard (left), WinterWunderland lettuce (center) and Mashal lRed Romaine (right) have doubled in size since planting in February in the greenhouse

Well, now that spring has sprung it’s time to get busy-really busy!  We vegetable gardeners will generally be headless from now on from pre-starting seeds to planting in the garden all those vegetables you’ve been dreaming of trying since January. And some of us are still cleaning up our gardens including me. Now is the time in our area, to continue seed planting or start seeds inside under lights or in a cold frame or a hoophouse. Just about any cold hardy veggies like Asian greens, lettuce, spinach, mesclun and many others can be started inside and some of those can also be started outside right now like arugula, bok choy, spinach and peas. Also if your space is warm enough, you can plant beets inside but DON’T plant beet and carrot seeds outside till April (right around the corner). The reason is the soil is still pretty cold outside in our gardens and they will just sit and sulk until the soil warms up. 😦

Seed Starting For Early Spring Crops-Class handouts

The Seed Starting For Early Spring Crops class that I taught today was sponsored by one of the organizations I’m a member of called Home Grown New Mexico. Home Grown New Mexico puts on many classes about growing, raising, making and preserving your food throughout the year. They are about sustainability, urban farming and growing organically which is right up my alley and the classes are open to the public. If you’d like to see what other classes/workshop Home Grown New Mexico is putting on, check out their website homegrownnewmexico.org.

Now, here are the handouts if you weren’t able to make the class or if you didn’t get them as we ran out of them during the class today-it was definitely a full house with about 35 people attending. It was a good mix of Master Gardeners, Interns and the public that attended. I really like to teach when you all show up! Hope you learned something and enjoyed it!

Starting Cold Hardy Plants in Early Spring Inside-2014

seed germination chart

PRESPOUTING SEEDS

Cold hardy crops for early spring in March-April

COOL-WARM SEASON CROPS

Spring has sprung! (well almost)

lettuce_greenhouse germinating

This lettuce is from Johnny’s called All-Star Gourmet Lettuce mix coming in the greenhouse.

In celebration of my FIRST CROPS coming up in the greenhouse, I’ve changed the background color on my blog back to green from winter blue. In my mind, winter is over although not officially – that won’t take place till the first day of spring on Spring Equinox on March 20 and of course we can still (will) get snow. No matter. I’m ready! I’m moving on and planting stuff (in the greenhouse). What kind of stuff? Read on to find out!

bok choy_yellow green

These are a golden yellow pak choi (shakushina) from Kitazawa. They’re already a great yellow-green color and will make a wonderful contrast to the tatsoi.

These first crops took about 12 days to germinate-they actually came up on March 1 so they were planted on Feb 17th. They are all still tiny but coming up nicely. The top picture is a lettuce mix from Johnny’s called All Star Lettuce Mix that’s suppose to grow out evenly. The second picture is a golden-yellow pak choi (shakushina) from Kitazawa. Also from Kitazawa are Pak Choi rosette (tatsoi) and white stem dwarf pak choi (both not shown). These were all recommended in Elliot Coleman’s book, Four Season Harvest (except the golden-yellow pak choi which I couldn’t resist because of the color). According to Elliot Coleman they all do well in cold greenhouses.   I have winter weight row cover over them now to protect them at night. I also planted Winter Bloomsdale spinach from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange at the same time and it’s coming up way slower but the first 2 seedlings broke ground yesterday, on March 3.

Ah, spring has sprung-and we got rain this week! What could be better?! I’m also going to plant transplants this week to see how they do in comparison to the seedlings. I’ll get pics later on that one.

Thinning and preparing mesclun/greens-keeping your homegrown greens fresh!

Here are my steps to thinning and preparing mesclun so it doesn’t WILT in your refrigerator. In fact you can use this method after you clean any greens in ANY STAGE from microgreens to full grown lettuce and greens from the garden or store bought.

The MOST IMPORTANT THING if you are growing any greens is to PICK THEM FIRST THING IN THE MORNING when they are fresh-not the heat of the day, OTHERWISE THEY WILL BE WILTED NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO (are you listening Lava?). During this first stage of mesclun, it is a little more labor intensive. (After the leaves grow more, you will just cut off the tops above the crowns so they can grow back and there will not be much dirt since you are not pulling these out by the roots.)

Here is the mesclun in my salad bowl I made. Notice they are very cramped with not much dirt showing. I need to thin these out so the leaves can get bigger without overcrowding.

Thin out the mesclun. The goal here is to have some dirt showing to give the remaining leaves some room to grow.

Now the mesclun (first thinnings) are like microgreens and are ready to clean. Notice the roots are still on them. You can cut them off or eat them if you rinse well. Here I’m leaving them on. Of course you could just feed them to the chickens or throw them out but I don’t like to waste them plus they are yummy! You would pay big bucks for just a tiny bit of microgreens in the stores.

Here is the mesclun at the first rinse. I first clean my sinks out with bleach so I know they are clean. I suppose you could use big bowls to rinse instead. I filled my sink with COLD WATER from the faucet. Notice the leaves float on top while the dirt mostly sinks to the bottom. From here I gently scoop out the leaves trying to leave the dirt on the bottom of the sink or bowl and transfer them to the other side of the sink full of water for the second rinsing. By the way, rinsing this way is way easier than using a colander.  It works really well for spinach too. This way removes the dirt that can stay in a colander.

Second rinse-Notice most of the dirt is gone at the bottom of the sink after I  have removed the leaves.

At this stage I do one hand rinse in case their is more dirt trapped on the roots. Then I put them into…

The last rinse- notice the dirt is gone. Rinse more if you still have dirt.

Since I grow the lettuce bowl inside, I use seed starting mix and you need to look out for the perlite that is in it as it can float in the water instead of sinking like the dirt-so be on the lookout for it. Just scoop them off the surface of the water before you do each rinse. It would be a little too crunchy in my salad!

Now the leaves are ready for the spinner. Just don’t pack it too full as the leaves are very delicate. Spin it in small batches and..

gently place it in a loose plastic bag (not ziploc) lined with a dry paper towel. Then this next trick is very important. I learned it from reading Dorie Greenspan’s book,  Around My French Table where you…

squeeze the bag so there is only a small opening and blow into the bag with your breath. This will fill the bag with carbon dioxide (which we expel) and then blow it up till it is full and..

tie off with a twistie tie so the air doesn’t escape and put into your refrigerator. YOUR GREENS WILL STAY FRESH FOR ABOUT A WEEK. Be sure you blow into it each time you get some greens out before putting it back into the refrigerator again. This takes up a little more room in your refrigerator but is worth it. No more homegrown wilted greens! Pretty cool trick, huh?!

Lettuce bowl ready for first thinning

Here is the lettuce bowl I planted on Mar 7, only 13 days ago. Remember how it was barely coming up where it hung off the seed heat mat-well no more!  It is coming up beautifully. It’s so nice to see a ‘sea of green’ in the house. I will thin the baby seedlings (eating them) to give the rest of the seedlings some room to grow bigger. This is a mesclun lettuce I got from the Homegrown New Mexico seed swap event.  It is about 2 weeks ahead of the the lettuce I just planted outside. All part of trying to keep a continuous supply of lettuce for awhile. A couple more weeks and I think I’ll have a salad!

Seed starting INSIDE

I’ve been planting seeds INSIDE for a couple of weeks now. Here is my update on my seed starting endeavors this spring so far.

PEAS-Not everything is successful-My pea seeds I planted inside have NOT done well as I had hoped. They are barely coming up now inside so I planted more outside and if these make it, I will add to the other seeds that I planted outside on Saturday. I think the heating mat was too hot for them so I put them on a table under the lights but with no heat. We will see..

FAVA BEANS-I’m so excited-I’ve never grown fava beans before but are trying them this year. I sprouted fava beans that I got from that Homegrown seed swap and bought some more that I got from Spanish Table Market here in Santa Fe. The companies would like to say that the ones they sell you to eat are different then the ones they sell you to grow.  If they are treated then that would be true but so far I have not found that to be the case. They are both sprouting just fine. Today I saw three of them breaking ground in their little pots on the heat mat under the lights. Once up I will transplant them outside as they like the cold. I’ll talk about them later.

CHARD, BOK CHOY seeds planted-MAR 13-The chard and bok choy germinated in 2 days!

BORAGE seeds planted-MAR 13-Germinated in 3 days!

MORE LETTUCE-seeds planted-MAR 13-just starting to come up

SPINACH seeds planted inside as well as outside -MAR 13-Not up yet

TOMATOES-seeds planted today-Sunday, MAR 18-planted 27 different varieties! Hope to put them out 8 weeks from now-mid May or sooner. Last year I planted tomato seeds inside on Mar 21.

POTATOES-I’ve been chitting them for a week now. Chitting is getting the potato eyes to sprout.

The next major inside seed starting will be in 2 weeks-Basil, oregano, marjoram, zinnias and probably a lot more.