Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kitchen garden growings

My vegetable garden is still growing things for me.

I replanted some of the beds with some Winter Vegetables and hope the weather will be nice enough to me this winter to let me pick some food during the dark months of the year. Some weather prediction for this year say it could be a mild winter this year so maybe it all will work out.
This growing season has been somewhat a mixed bag of success in growing my food. Our summer has been a bit cool this year, especially at night, even tough we had a bit of up and downs in temperature. So everything what likes cool, did really well. But anything which needed some warm night times grew very slow and didn't produce as much.
Some vegetables grew in abundance, some I barely got even one meal out of them. Others grew nicely but took forever to ripen and then I had a huge snail problem this year. Aphids were sucking the life out of some plants, I had a infestation of Cabbage Worms, then Powdery Mildew came strong on this year. To top it off, the neighbors cat had been tearing my garden fabric to shreds, which I had been putting over my vegetables to keep the Aphids and Cabbage Worms off or I might had better luck with keeping these pests off my plants.

Some of you might not like my philosophy on out door cats, but I am a strong believer of keeping cats only indoors, I think communities should outlaw roaming cats and have cat restraint laws just like for dog owners.
I have lost many, many crops to cats scratching my seedlings out and I have spend a lot of money trying to keep them off my garden beds. They have destroyed my property, made some of my property practically unusable because of the stink they leave, and they have eaten my family of resident Song Sparrows, which I had in my garden for years until all were eaten by the cats. So, I am no friend of roaming cats. I just don't understand how cat owners can justify making their pet a problem of their neighbors or the wild life they kill.

I have been looking to find something I can easily put on the beds to keep the cats of my seedlings, something they won't shred, because it moves in the wind, which pretty much disqualifies the garden fleece blankets. I also didn't want to spend a fortune, believe me I have spend enough money already on my neighbors cats. So, I found these pop up nets at Gardener Supply Co, which do fit perfect on the 3'x3' garden beds. They also keep the Cabbage Butterflies off your plants.

The nets are supposed to fit over the 3x3 beds, but this would not work for me, because almost all my beds are 3'x6', instead I just sit them on top, I find they are much easier to remove to work the beds this way and so far I have had no cats scratching my new seedlings out and none got destroyed.
They weren't overly expensive, but I don't think I will buy them for each vegetable bed. I just have too many beds. I will just use them to mainly keep the cats out of freshly planted beds.

Last year season I had a terrible crop of Beans, I think I only managed to fill two 1-gallon freezer bags for the winter with them. This year the Beans just kept producing and producing, I filled my freezer with bag after bag. Beans were a big success this year. I usually plant only pole beans. Last year I started growing my beans on some Rose Arbor Trellises, which works pretty well, as long you don't over-plant them, which I did which resulted in a bit of difficult picking. Sometimes I get carried away and plant to much of one thing.

Somehow I had purchased some beans, I thought were Pole Beans but ended up being Bush Beans, I had planted them on one side of the arbor and so one side did not have beans climbing up.
The bean varieties I grew were 'Violetto' also known as 'Pea cock' which is a purple, flat podded bean and was very prolific. I also grew some green 'Emerite' and yellow 'Ramdor' Haricot verts Beans, those did not do as well toward the end of season, and then I had a variety from Italy called 'Stortino di Trento' which is a pretty looking beans. It is curved, green and streaked with purple, and it also makes a good soup bean, so after I had more then enough beans in my freezer I just let the rest turn into dry beans.

My Zucchinis, I planted 'Romanesco', 'Sarzano' and 'Caserta' only resulted in a few mediocre, itty-bitty fruits, they did not produce hardly anything. Not sure if it had to do with the weather, not enough bees, maybe not enough light or the ground they were in, but the cucumbers, some French pickle varieties (Fin De Meaux', De Borbonne', 'Parisian Pickling') and some Salad cucumbers ('Bush Champion', Marketmore 97', and a Italian variety called 'Tortarello Abruzzese') across from them did really well, last year I never had enough to make pickles, but this year I managed to make a few jars and my kids were eating cucumbers all summer.

Tomatoes, I grew this year following varieties: 'Thessaloniki' - red; 'Orange Strawberry';
'Striped German' - yellow/orange; 'Peron Sprayless' -red; 'Marmande' - red;
'Black Prince' - brown; 'Azoychka' - yellow; 'Principe Borghese' - red, drying; 'Debarao' - red/paste; 'Orange Banana' - paste;

This year even though the tomatos finally produced a lot of fruit, the fruit just would take forever to ripen. I ended up just taking the partly ripe fruit and let them finish inside the house. They only really started producing toward the middle of September, they are still full of fruit, mostly green. Then this week we had some real early freeze for this area, it went all the way down into the low twenties, very unusual. My husband fixed me quickly a greenhouse shelter out of PVC pipes which kept them warm enough at night and when I checked next day, they all seemed well and happy. It was nice and toasty inside the shelter. Maybe it even will help them ripen faster. Even with the slow ripening I managed to freeze some Tomato puree for the winter and hopefully I can get some more with help of the green house.

I think next year I just will try growing the tomatoes under a hoop house, and see how they do compared to outside. Our North West climate is not always easy on the heat loving plants.

I also grew some peppers, which I put underneath a small plastic hoop house and they seem to be doing well. Peppers are always hard to grow out here and they are always late. I have had not much luck with the square type bell peppers so last year I got myself some different kind of sweet pepper seeds, they are long and pointed and very tasty. They produced much better last year then any of the bells I grew before, so I think I will just be content with growing these in the future. They are still in the ripening process.
The varieties I grew were 'Marconi Op'- yellow and red variety; 'Cornaletto Corno Di Capri' -red, 'Romanian Rainbow' -from white to orange to red; 'San Salvatore Calabrese'- red;
'Red Lamuyo'; 'Red and yellow Bullshorn' and 'Giant Szegedi' - white to orange to red.

I even managed to coach a few Melons to ripen. I found these small type of melons at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company which said to have a shorter growing season. Melons are really difficult to grow in Western Oregon. I had to try one more time. I grew them under this special, green plastic mulch made for melons and I managed to get a few melons to ripen. They were small but tasty. I could have had more melons maybe, but the snails ate most of my small seedlings. Nevertheless I called it a success, so next year I will try again.
These were the varieties I grew: 'Collective Farm Woman'; 'Gaucho'; 'Minnesota Midget', 'Oka-bizard Island' and 'Prescott Fond Blanc'
Toward the end the Powdery Mildew got them and they weren't producing anymore.

Other success stories: Turnips grew well in Spring; for the first time I harvested some Celery, which never grew good for me; Peas did alright; Lettuce, grew for a long time this year, which tells you something about our weather; Swiss Chard never fails me; Garlic and Onions did okay, the Shallots did the best; Leeks are doing good; my salad greens grew well, Arugula always does good and I even managed to get some Radishes out of my garden, which have not been successful for me in Oregon so far. Russian Kale did really well in Spring.

Carrots in the beginning didn't sprout, then after I got them to sprout, the cats dug them up and I had to replant. Now they are growing happy under the covers. The same happened to my Fennel, which after a time you can't really replant, so I did not harvest any. I have had no success so far growing Cauliflower in Oregon, it just won't grow or it bolts, same with Broccoli Rabe. Broccoli I usually get only a little bit out of before it flowers. My cabbage got eaten by snails and then the cabbage worms and aphids got the rest.

For next growing season I need to amend my beds with better compost; I should try to fertilize more often, something I often neglect to do; I need to keep the warm season plants warmer and start them earlier in the house before transplanting. I also need to figure something out how to better cover the plants to protect them from pests, before the pests get to them, and something the cats cant get to. I think maybe my automatic drip system, even it works great with most plants, once they have sprouted, does not work as well with starting seeds and maybe that has been my problem with growing Radishes successfully the last few years. Then this year I had Radishes growing with a micro sprinkler and they grew much better.

Luckily there always will be another growing season, you always get to try again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saving Seeds of Peas

Peas because they are big seeds and are contained in a pod, so don't scatter are easy to collect. They also belong to the self pollinating group, so come usually true to seed. There is a slight possibility that insect activity could produce a bit of cross pollination, however regular peas should not cross with sugar peas and vice versa. It's been never a problem for me but to prevent any crossing you can keep different varieties five to ten feet apart. Or, if you don't have the space, you could just plant only one variety of each kind each year and still be able to keep your seeds going there pea seed are viable for 3 years, if kept at cool, dry conditions.

Pea vines can become a tangled mess, which can make identification of individual plants difficult. It helps to keep the single plant just a bit apart for easy identification, or better plant a few pea plants separate from the ones you plan on eating just for seed production. To get a pound of seeds it will take about 15 feet of peas planted in a row, planted at the proper spacing, or the equivalent of that planted in a shorter but wider area. Peas need zinc to form peas in the pods so if you see not many pea seeds forming you might have zinc deficiency which can be corrected with adding Zinc-Sulfate to your soil.

Before you can shell the seeds for keeping, they need to thoroughly dry in the pod. Take them out to early they will rot. To make sure they are all completely dry it's a good idea to dry the vines in a well-aired area for a week or more, making sure you don't pack them to tight together so they don't become damp and rot. Damp seeds won't have good growing qualities. After they are dry you can hand crack the pods or thresh the seeds.

Store in good sealed containers or bags in a cool, dry environment or you can store them in the freezer, which should make them stay viable for at least five years. Before you plant them, you need to take them out of the freezer to defrost and warm up.