Weather FREEZE Alert!

The next few nights are going be below freezing here in Santa Fe area. Tonite (Sunday) is not too bad only 30°F but still below freezing and Monday and Tuesday will be in the low 20’s at nite so protect your veggie plants with row cover (preferably with winter weight or 2 layers of medium weight) for those tender transplants you may already have out. Prepare now and protect those plants! Hate to see them wiped out especially since all nurseries are now closed due to governor mandate.

And of course this cold snap comes right as our fruit trees are flowering-ah poop!

Tip Toe Through the Tulips

In these trying times, we need to appreciate nature and gardens. Being in my garden helps ground me, always has, but this year in particular I need to feel the earth under my feet. It is one of the few things that keeps me sane right now.

Last fall I went bonkers ordering so many tulips online and I thought what have I done? So much work planting them all (65 in all I believe). Well, now they are blooming and I am so loving their beauty plus they will come back every year.

To keep my cat from digging in the dirt around the tulips, Elodie suggested I put rocks around them. Works like a charm. No more tramping on them, digging around them and breaking them.
Not all gardening is food for the belly. Some of it is food for our souls. Something we all need right now.

Coronavirus and gardening

Well it seems that the Coronavirus is making gardeners out of a lot of people who have never tried vegetable gardening before. Many people are interested in trying to grow food now. That makes me happy. I know it feeds my soul as well as my belly. There is a good article, ‘An onslaught of orders engulfs seed companies amid coronavirus fears’ about how the seed companies are super busy filling orders for seeds right now.  Glad some companies are doing well in all this chaos.

Being out in the fresh air (by yourself) and in a garden grounds me (no pun intended) and god knows we all need that right now-at least I do. I can’t stay inside all day and be on TV or the internet and watch or listen to all the doom and gloom news. I need to hear good news too. Growing vegetables brings me joy and makes me feel productive-in a way I’m creating my own good news and food.

Here in our area and in lots of area throughout the country, a lot of veggies can be started from seed in April, like carrots, beets, onions, greens like kale and chard. Some lettuces and spinach can be started from starts and transplanted into your garden. Warm weather crops like tomatoes, corn, winter squash, and summer squash all need to be started AFTER danger of frost which is after May 15 here in Santa Fe.

I want to encourage any of you interested in growing your own food to start now. You will feel more productive and less depressed about the worldwide Coronairus scenario.

This site has a lot of free information and tips about how to grow, what to grow,  and when to grow veggies throughout the year. Please feel free to explore the site and on the right side column, there is wealth of topics to explore.

That’s it for now. Take care of yourselves and be safe!

Kalibos cabbage-unbelievably beautiful!

For the last 2 years I’ve grown Kalibos cabbage. A friend of mine, Alessandra turned me on to it. This beautiful Eastern European variety is cone shape with huge outer leaves that surround the cone. The cabbage has a high sugar content and intense reddish-purple leaves. The flavor is sweet. Finally a cabbage I like! I never liked cabbage before. It is so beautiful in the garden and makes quite a statement.

I especially like planting it with flowers like in the picture above. It will be equally beautiful nestled in with other plants or in the veggie garden. Needs full sun and takes 2-3 square feet in the garden. Start seeds indoors and transplant them outside under some lightweight row cover. Harvest in late summer or fall. I got my seeds from rareseeds.com (Baker Heirloom Seeds). 90 days to harvest.

What can gardeners do while we deal with Coronavirus?

So while most of us are holed up in our houses, I imagine we will get pretty bored. There are only so many Netflix videos I can watch. I’m a bit shell shocked and finding trouble getting motivated right now to do anything. But I must. I can’t sit around here moping around when actually there are many things I could do around the house and garden.

Since I need to do something else and I am a gardener, I can start getting my garden up to speed. There are always things I never seem to have enough time to do during the garden season as planting always takes precedent. Well, now I have the time to do some of those garden chores I always seem to put off. Plus I can share more on my blog with all this time off.

So what am I going to do? First, I have a lot of cool season veggies started in my house under grow lights. Lettuce, spinach, chard, beets, fava beans, onions and peas are growing inside and just waiting to go outside. But not in the next few days as we are cold in the day and freezing at night. So they will stay tucked in the house for a few more days before I transplant them outside in my main garden. When I do put them outside, I will put row cover over them at night. If you don’t have winter weight row, then two layers of medium weight will work to protect them. Don’t forget to water.

Meanwhile there are many other gardening chores I can do. Here is my list so far:

-The raspberries need to be pruned now before new growth comes in

-The greenhouse needs a fresh coat of paint

-I need to start new compost piles and turn old ones

-feed my worms in my vermicompost pile. Screen some of the castings out to put in the holes when I do plant

-The greenhouse needs to be straightened up and reorganized.

-Collect stuff I need to take to the dump. Are they even open right now?

-Weeds-pull any that are coming up right now or take your hoe and scrape the ground, cutting them off before they get big

-Rake and smooth out my raised beds

-Add 2 inches of compost on each bed and sprinkle a little Azomite on each bed to remineralize them

-Lightly rake in the compost and azomite in the beds

-Start tomato seeds at end of March

-Order garden stuff from Amazon

-Watch gardening clips on Youtube

-Cook my raw tomato sauce that is in my freezer from last season and make some good pasta sauces.

-If you haven’t started any plants, you can plant any cool weather SEEDS OUTSIDE like spinach and beets.

-Plant lettuce, carrots, more beets and chard in April

-I’m sure there are lots more things to do but it is exhausting just thinking about them-think I’ll go take a nap!

 

 

 

 

 

Growing onions

I use to think growing onions was a waste of time but I’ve changed my mind. A home grown onion is better than a store bought one that is really old. There are a couple of ways to grow onions. Go to your nursery and get ‘sets’ which are little onion bulbs and just plant them according to instructions. But what if they don’t have a particular variety you want to grow this season? Then you need to start them from seeds.

What type of onions should we grow here in Santa Fe? There are three types of onions, each one does better in certain parts of the country. Both short day and day neutral onions (sometimes called intermediate onions) will work here in Santa Fe (and of those two, day neutral do best but you can grow short day as well). Long day will NOT have enough daylight hours to work here and the onions will be puny. So when shopping for onions, be sure to ask if these are short day or day neutral types and if you are shopping online, read the description-it should say what type it is. Short day need 10-12 hours of daylight and day neutral need 12-14 hours of daylight. All can be planted in fall or early spring but not in the middle of summer.

GROWING FROM SEEDS: Next if starting from seed, you should start now or even earlier (next year-but you can start now too). In the top pictures are some Cippolini Italian onions that I could not find in sets so I started them last month from seeds. Now I am not quite ready to plant them out, and their tops were getting tall so I read it’s perfectly fine to trim off the little skinny tops. They will continue to grow. I used the cuttings on my scrambled eggs in the morning. Later this month I will separate each one and plant them out in the garden. Those spindly little green tops will grow out to be beautiful onions. I had a bumper crop of onions this last season.

If you think growing onions from seeds instead of sets might turn out smallish, then look again. These red onions from Italy turned out fantastic and I harvested them last fall and they are still good.

GROWING FROM SETS: Now if you prefer to buy sets instead, plant each bulb 1 inch deep with the round part of the bulb facing down in a well composted bed, 4 inches apart in full sun. Water moderately. For spring planting, plant bulb sets now.

HARVESTING ONIONS: When the necks become soft and the tops fall down, stop watering and when 50% of the green tops die back, the full size onions will be ready to harvest. If the bulb is poking out of the soil, that’s ok. Harvest before it freezes. Do not clean off the dirt or cut off the tops until you cure the onions. Curing is the process of letting the outer skins harden off and is necessary for them to store unless you are using them right away. Let dry in a protected area like under a porch or in a shady area for about a week and then clean off the dirt and trim off the tops. Store inside in a dark area like where you store potatoes.

Grow flowers in your veggie garden!

Last year I had an edible flower class out here on the mini-farm. The garden looked so beautiful. I normally grow flowers to attract pollinators and beneficial bugs but had the bonus of edible flowers as well. I liked mixing them within some of the crops. Nice to remember how beautiful it was considering the garden is sleeping now. Here are some photos from it.

Growing cool season lettuce

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Cool season lettuces and spinach in germination tray, ready to transplant into bigger pots

A friend of mine said the other night that she stopped trying to grow lettuce because it always gets too bitter. But growing lettuces in the spring can be easy-you just have to start earlier than you think you do. If you start seeds in late April, you’re too late as the weather can go from cold days to hot days very quickly and that is when they can bolt and become bitter so you’ll want to harvest earlier.

Since most lettuces are cool season crops and take around 45-55 days to mature, we need to back up our start date to sometime in February/March or even earlier inside under lights (like I did) and harvest in April or early May before it gets hot.

Be sure to grow lettuces that are cold tolerant-it should say on the seed packets. This year I started the first lettuces back on January 15 inside my house under grow lights with no heat-this is very early so I’m pushing it.

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Lettuce transplanted un into bigger pots or pony paks.

Then I transplanted them up from the germination tray into a pony pak on January 20. Then I  transplanted the plants into my greenhouse on February 17. That’s about 4 weeks old when I put them out in the ground.  My greenhouse is unheated so I have to cover them everynight and on cold days with 2 layers of row cover but so far they are doing well. Tonite is 13°F so let’s see if they survive…

Meanwhile I started more from seeds on Feb 03 and they were transplanted into the pony paks February 25 so if tonite kills the others in the greenhouse, these should go out into the greenhouse in another 1-2 weeks. Basically the whole process from starting lettuce seeds to putting out into a greenhouse or coldframe or as the season goes on takes about 4-5 weeks.

You can even put them in a raised bed or mini hoophouse with heavy row cover directly over them by the time April rolls around. So if you plant them in first week of March, you will be able to pick leaves 45 days later or around April 15. By the time everyone else is just starting their lettuce seeds, you will be enjoying the lettuces while they are sweet before it gets too hot.

2019 Garden Gratitude

In this topsy-turvey time in the world where everything is chaotic and polarized, I feel the need to reflect on the garden and what I was grateful for in the garden in 2019.

First and foremost is that I’m blessed with a big 3000 square ft garden that is almost finished-is anything really finished in one’s garden or is a garden something always in transition?

This last year I had a wonderful helper, named Janine (I always said I wanted a clone!) who I was blessed by meeting her at a class I taught.  Janine came out and weeded ALL the gardens while she was here for 2.5 weeks. Then I put landscape fabric down on the paths and wood mulch over the them to keep the weeds out. Works great. Now I’m not spending all my time battling weeds.

I finished up the last of my raised beds by framing them with wood. Now the soil and amendments don’t run off like my raked raised beds use to do, but instead stay contained inside the bed. Much better.

I bought hail netting which I’m sure will be great but we didn’t get hail here last season!  Go figure! Made me more relaxed though when a storm came rolling in and it kept the deer off of my crops which decided to come into the garden in the fall to nibble.

I am grateful for the abundant fruit crops my friends and I had this past season in 2019. And although we got no apples this year here at the mini farm from the apple trees, (they must be taking off a year after producing hundreds of lbs the previous year,) there was still so much fruit to harvest and share this year. Biggest year ever for me!

We got:

Cherries-10 lbs (from a friend)

Apricots-(last harvest was 7 years ago from our trees) canned lots of apricot jam

Peaches-30 lbs (from a friend’s peach trees)

Pears-20 lbs (from a friends pear trees)

Grapes, strawberries, rhubarb, blackberries and raspberries-all from my own garden. Abundant harvests.

I said when I planted raspberries 2 seasons ago that I wanted so many raspberries that I would get sick of them. Well, I didn’t get sick of them but was so overwhelmed by the number of raspberries that I opened up that patch to some friends to harvest some as our freezer filled up fast. Actually you can never get too many raspberries (or blackberries for that matter).

So what the veggie garden lacked in 2019, the fruit harvest was incredible.

Looking forward to a new gardening season!

Vegetable Varieties Review for 2019 garden

Here’s my report for the 2019 garden season in case of any of you want to grow them!

SUCCESSFUL VARIETIES

LETTUCES-Normally I plant cold season lettuces in early spring so they don’t bolt but in summer. This past season I also planted Summer Crisp (Batavian) varieties. They did well in OUR summer. They didn’t bolt or get bitter and had lettuce all summer and fall too. I love all lettuces but now have found varieties that grow in heat. Check out Johnny’s Seeds.

WINTER SQUASH-Butternut winter squash (any variety) doesn’t attract squash vine borers SVB (their stems are solid) OR squash bugs. So for that reason alone, I will plant more butternut squash as my winter squash. I’ve grown Italian Violini butternut, Tahiti butternut, and Waltham butternut through the years and all did well with no bugs (at least in my garden). How great is that?!

SUMMER SQUASHFriuilana zucchini also doesn’t attract squash bugs although I’m not sure about squash vine borers so I keep it covered with row cover before the flowers come and then uncover them and by then the SVB is gone.

GREEN BEANS-This past season I grew Emerite pole french filet green beans. They are one of my favorites. The Emerite beans did well and taste great.

DRY BEANS-I grew a few varieties of dry beans that I got from Italy but you can find many of them from Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans online.
Rossa di Lucca-(a dark pink bush bean with stripes) that did fantastic (I got them from our local Santa Fe Farmers Market at Zulu’s Petals Farm)

PEPPERSJimmy Narello peppers are our favorite sweet Italian pepper and Shishito peppers and both did well.

CUCUMBERS-My all time favorite EATING cucumber is Poona Kheera, hands down, and I grow PICKLING cucumbers-Parisian for cornichons, Boothby Blonde for Bread n Butter. All did well.

CARROTS-I grew Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple this year- nice, sweet, colorful carrots

BEETS-Chioga and Cylindra beets did fantastic this year.

CABBAGE-I’ve grown Kalibos cabbage the last two years and it is fantastic, producing huge conical shaped heads of red cabbage that are sweeter than most cabbages.

TOMATOES-Eight tomato varieties did really well and 17 did not fare so well. So they ones that did well this year were: Black Cherry, Cherokee Carbon, Cherokee Purple, Large Barred Boar, Original Goliath, Paul Robeson, and Grosse Verte Rose, Sungold.

 

UNSUCCESSFUL VARIETIES this year

DRY BEANS-I grew a few varieties of dry beans that I got from Italy but you can find many from Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans online.
Borlotti bean didn’t do well but has in the past. Will grow again.

Zolphino beans-started out great but a gopher got them all. Zolphino beans are hard to find in the states (I got mine in Italy) but can be found at Uprising Seeds this year. Will grow again.

Tomatoes-17 tomato plants did not do well-poor production. This very well might have been my fault with not enough water as some varieties that didn’t do well this past season have done great in years past. So I’m not counting most of these out this year.

Cour di Bue-puny vines, poor production although the Italians swear by them. Will not grow again

Dark Queen-new to me but did not do well. Will try again.

Captain Lucky-died of unknown cause. Will try this year again

Brandywines-No tomatoes-not enough growing time-too short a season here. I give up.

BKX-died of CTV (curly top virus) Bit by Beet Leafhopper. Will try again.

Santorini-Greek tomato-too small and not sweet enough-will not grow again.

 

MIXED BAG (some success and some not)

SWEET POTATOES
Georgia Jet sweet potatoes- Have a short season (90 days to harvest) and the harvest was fantastic BUT I let them go through one hard freeze and many of them rotted I believe because of that. Will grow this year but will harvest before the first frost, not even waiting for a hard freeze)

TOMATOES-
Ananas Noir-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Virginia Sweet-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Big Zac-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Lucky Cross– This is my all-time favorite tomato that normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Garlic planted yesterday Oct 26!

Garlic cloves planted and covered with straw for winter protection

Nice day yesterday here in Santa Fe. I planted the garlic I ordered from Filaree Garlic Farm online for the second year and their garlic is great. I ordered 3 hardneck varieties (hardneck varieties do well here in cold climates). They are Penasco Blue, German White and Music. All produce big heads of garlic.  If you plant garlic in late fall (October), you will get bigger heads of garlic in early summer than if you wait till summer to plant it and it’s sooo easy at this time of year. I added about 2 inches of compost on top of my raised bed, lightly dug it in and planted the cloves pointy side up about 3 inches deep. Then water well and add about 6 inches of straw on top for winter protection. Remember to water them in the winter if we don’t get any precipitation and wait for the green leaves to appear in early spring. Nothing  bothers them too and fresh garlic is great! That’s it-easy peezy.

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Santa Fe? Yes!

Sweet potato vines with chard at end of bed

 

I tried sweet potatoes this season. I wasn’t sure if we would have enough time for them to get big. Plus they like really hot, damp climate like in the South where they are grown a lot. Sweet potatoes take between 90-170 days to mature. Yikes! Many varieties would not mature here in our short season. I ended up getting a variety called Georgia Jett because it has one of the shortest growing times—90 days to harvest. It has orange flesh.

I got a dozen sweet potato slips in spring. They arrived in the mail too early to plant. And they were not in good shape when they came. I had to keep them alive in the house till the weather and soil warmed up in late spring. At first, I put a damp paper towel in a plastic bag with the slips to keep moist. I lost 7 of them. Then I eventually had to put them in a glass of water where they started producing roots. As it got close to planting time, I put them outside in a bucket with water. I planted them in June in Wall of Waters as the nights were still cool, We had a late snow on May 20. Five survived.

Sweet potato flower

Well it turns out those five slips filled and overflowed the 10′ x 4′ raised bed. They are easy to grow and not much bothers them, plus no bugs. They just need water and heat, which we got plenty of heat this summer. They are beautiful plants. I’m not sure where I coulda put the other 7 as they are rampant growers and need space. Plus I didn’t know they are related to morning glories and have a beautiful flower which is smaller than a morning glory flower. Another bonus!

Left side-sweet potatoes still curing Right side-sweet potatoes with dirt brushed off and ready for pantry

They have now been harvested and many of them are very large. They are curing inside the house because they must be kept warm during the curing process. Curing is a hardening off process for veggies like squash and garlic to harden the skins and in this case to sweeten them as well. When you dig them out, don’t wash off the dirt while they are curing. They have to cure for 10 days in a warm space. After that, you can lightly brush off the dirt but still don’t wash them till just before use. Store them in a dark space like regular potatoes. I don’t know about the flavor yet as they are still curing inside the house but they look good. I’ll let you know when I eat some of them about the flavor.

Veggie Garden Finito!

Three boxes of green tomatoes (now ripening inside), Butternut squash, Pink Glass Gem corn harvested Oct 9

The veggie garden is done for the season. Harvesting was intense since the first freeze came about a week earlier this year.

Onions and sweet potatoes and other crops (not pictured) harvested this past Sunday

I harvested the last of the warm season crops like corn, tomatoes, raspberries, squash before the very first hard freeze on Oct 10.

Then this past Sunday, Oct 20th, I finished harvesting the last of my cool season crops-carrots, fennel, kale, onions, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage and sweet potatoes (more on sweet potatoes later). All are inside now. I have so much produce, I brought in some tables to put everything on. I’ve been sharing much of the harvest with friends.

I will clean up the dead vegetation before the ground freezes which will be sometime in early December.

I once waited to clean up the garden in the spring but found it was too much work, what with adding amendments in the soil and planting a new garden, so now I do it in the fall.

Winter is Coming! (tomorrow nite-October 10)

As they kept saying in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming” and it is coming here tomorrow night. Low temperatures tomorrow (Wednesday) will be 24°F and Thursday night will be 27°F. I’ve been harvesting everything I can before the cold hits. Afterwards is too late.

Most of my garden is done but here are some crops that may still need harvesting. I will pick my winter squash now and put it in the house. While winter squash likes it cold, it does not like the temperatures below freezing and can be ruined if they freeze–they should last months in the house.

Pick any green tomatoes of decent size and put them 2 layers deep in paper bags. The bags will keep the tomatoes in the dark. Then put a slice of apple in the bag (it releases ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent) and close up the bag to speed up the ripening process. Check the bag several times a week and you can move them to your kitchen table once they turn color. They are never quite as good as sun-ripened tomatoes but still 200% better than store bought and you may have home grown tomatoes into November.

Harvest all other warm season crops like beans, peppers, eggplants, corn, cucumbers, summer squash and melons-if they are not already picked.

Harvest onions if you still have any.

Cool season crops like broccoli, kale, cabbage, arugula and other leafy greens may survive but will need winter weight row cover over them to protect them from the below freezing nights. Take off in the day and recover at night when freezing. You can get row cover (winter weight) at some of the local nurseries. Just call around.

Beets and carrots should be ok but should be harvested before the ground freezes rock hard in December.

If you have lettuce, I would pick it as it will freeze. You may be able to save it with row cover over it, but it is chancy.

Herbs can be cut and dried in your house.

Of course if you have a cold frame, your season could still be extended if you cover the plants inside with row cover.

So pick everything you can today and tomorrow and don’t forget to disconnect your drip systems so they don’t freeze either. Get busy!