Successes in Gardening

Our garden, finally looking more in order

Our garden, finally looking more in order

Today’s post is going to be full of garden successes, since yesterday’s was such a downer.  In reality, we’ve had much more success than failure in our garden this year, which is great considering we (ok, I) didn’t know what we were doing.  But for our successes, I think we had:

  • Lettuce. Black-seeded Simpson, Amish Deer Tongue, Salad Bowl, and the pilfered Red Lettuce – it was all prolific this year!  We had three small beds dedicated to the different kinds and we got way more than we thought we would. We couldn’t even eat it all and it went to seed, which we need to collect and save for next year. Next year we’ll definitely be cutting down on the amount of space dedicated to lettuce.
  • Onions. We got the free seedlings from Jenny (44 of them!) and pulled in quite a crop.  I spent last night braiding them after curing them for 2 weeks.  We’ve already used a few in our meals the last couple of weeks and they are delicious!
  • Tomatoes. Despite the tomato blight that hit much of the eastern seaboard, we came through unscathed.  With 12 tomato plants this year, we garnered approximately 45 lbs of tomatoes! With it, we’ve cooked with them, made canned salsa, canned tomato sauce (really, a post on this is coming soon, I promise), and canned tomato paste (1 can, lol).  I still have a handful more that I picked this week, but we’re nearing the end of our tomato harvest.
  • Sugarsnap Peas. These were prolific as well.  We ate a lot, but left even more on the vine because they came ripe in the middle of my recuperation from surgery.  Next year we’ll dedicate more space to growing them, because they were planted haphazardly this year.
  • Peppers. We got some nice frying peppers out our Cubanelles this year and enjoyed making stirfrys with them.  I think we could use a whole bed dedicated to peppers – maybe we’ll give one of the lettuce beds to them 🙂
  • Brussels Sprouts. Not sure how these will fare yet. But we planted 9 plants and they all grew. We should probably thin them, but K wants to hold off.  If they all grow sprouts, I will have more brussels sprouts than I ever wanted.  It’s like a kid’s nightmare come true!

At the garden on Sunday afternoon, I decided to walk around everyone’s plots and took some pictures of some of the abundant produce that people were growing. I hope you enjoy seeing other peoples’ successes!

Doesn't this make you think of a Cabbage Patch Kid?

Doesn't this make you think of a Cabbage Patch Kid?

If you look carefully, you can see beets poking out of the ground

If you look carefully, you can see beets poking out of the ground

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

This is broccoli (with only a few florets left)

This is broccoli (with only a few florets left)

Ruby Red Chard

Ruby Red Chard

Cherry Tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes

Green Peppers

Green Peppers

Red Pepper

Red Pepper

I have no idea what this is, but I love the lavender stems!

I have no idea what this is, but I love the lavender stems!

Sunflower close up

Sunflower close up

Lots of smaller sunflowers

Lots of smaller sunflowers

Sunflowers everywhere!

Sunflowers everywhere!

Failure in the Garden

Hubby and I went to the garden per usual Sunday afternoon and were saddened by the sight that greeted us.  Our beautiful corn stalks, the very ones I was asking about last week here, are gone.  Destroyed.

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I was really disappointed.  Like, irrationally disappointed.  I was so looking forward to tasting corn I had grown myself! And we only had about 4 stalks to begin with, so I wasn’t going to have that much.

So, with a heavy heart I started looking around the garden and saw all the other things this year that haven’t gone so well.  Don’t get me wrong, for our first summer gardening ever, trying to grow a whole bunch of new things we’d never done before, I think we’ve done really well.  But a look at our failures:

  • Golden chard. I didn’t even take a picture of it today because it looks exactly the same way it did over a month ago.  Small and fragile. It’s like permanently stuck in an early state, and definitely doesn’t look very appetizing.
  • Strawberries. The three plants we got from Pigliavento early this spring didn’t fare too well.  We think the birds (or some other small animal) keeps taking the strawberries, because there are never any!  We see unripe ones, but they are always gone before we see them red and ripe.  Luckily, the alpine strawberry plant we bought at Honest Weight Co-op and planted in a pot on our deck has done fabulously, and we plan to transplant it to the garden before winter comes (because it won’t last in the pot over the winter).  We ate little alpine strawberries all summer long on our back deck, and apparently fed a local squirrel too (which entertained our kitties looking on jealously from the inside).
  • Melons. We started the melon plants in pots on our deck a little late this spring, and it took them a long time to get used to the garden.  They’ve only started flowering the last few weeks, and there’s no sign of any fruit.  Boo.  Clearly, nothing’s going to have time to grow before the first frost hits sometime next month.  K and I have realized we need to start the plants inside earlier in the year (we didn’t do that at all this year), but we’re unsure how to do that in our condo.

    Melon vines with flowers

    Melon vines with flowers

  • Garlic. We ended up with 6 bulbs of garlic from the transplants Terry gave us in the spring.  However, they didn’t like being moved and didn’t grow very big.  Puny little garlic, and it was very mild garlic too. We didn’t save any cloves to use to grow new garlic next year because I didn’t like it.
  • Zucchini. Well, really, they were a mixed bag.  The beginning zucchinis were great.  But I think insects started eating them and they died a quick death.
  • Green beans. Oh, woe are the green beans.  This was totally our fault.  They grew nice and thick and we started off with a great crop.  However, we picked a few quarts the first few weeks, then left it in the fridge and let them go bad.  Then the Mexican bean beatle got a hold of the leaves and killed the plant.  We didn’t use any insecticide (even natural) this year and boy, we learned to never do that again!  Luckily, today we dug up and threw out the plants, killed the insects and larvae by hand, and saved a few of the last green beans that were still there. (The Mexican bean beetle only eats the leaves, it doesn’t touch the actual green beans).  Tonight, I blanched the green beans and froze them (no more canning, I’m all canned out right now). We have enough for one meal this winter, no more.
Destruction

Destruction

So, those were our failures in the garden this summer.  Tomorrow I’ll go over our successes.  I continued to feel badly about my corn until I saw our neighbor Lev’s corn:

Lev's corn

Lev's corn

He has a lot more of it that hasn’t been destroyed yet, but it still looked pretty bad.  Oh, and we’re pretty sure squirrels were the culprits.  We saw one sitting on top of a sunflower in town today, looking pretty smug 🙂 .

3 Kinds of Lettuce

Now that the lettuce has finally started growing bigger, we can tell it apart!  So here are pics of our three kinds of lettuce:

Salad Bowl lettuce

Salad Bowl lettuce

Amish Deer Tongue lettuce

Amish Deer Tongue lettuce

Black-seeded Simpson lettuce.

Black-seeded Simpson lettuce.

I can’t wait for the yummy salads we’re going to make this summer!

Overnight Growth

We have growth!  Yay!

The beginnings of lettuce!

The beginnings of lettuce!

I am pretty sure that this is the Black-seeded Simpson Lettuce growing, but it might be the Amish Deer Tongue. I really need to get on making some seed markers or it’s gonna be a long summer!

Long-standing Spinach

Long-standing Spinach

Our first spinach plant!

I didn’t take a picture, but the strawberry plants look like they are loving life out in the garden.  I was afraid the huge change in temperatures last week would affect them, but they are looking green and happy so far.  I think they’ve even gotten a little bigger.  I’m ready for them to put out some runners and start producing us some strawberries!

We found this plant growing in our garden and are such new gardeners, we’re wondering if it’s a weed or something left over from last year.  Knowing our luck, it’s probably a weed.  But does anyone know what this is?

Mystery Plant

Mystery Plant

And finally, the tulips are starting to bloom! Albany’s Tulip Festival is next week, and there will be hundreds of tulips more to see!

Tulips

Tulips

44 Onions

I’m beginning to see the benefits of the “community” part of community gardening. 🙂

The hubster and I headed over to our plot tonight to get restarted on our actual plot, instead of working the plot of the guy next to us. 🙂  When we arrived we saw one of the CDCG staff, Jenny, working her own plot in the corner across from us.  She said hello to us, and suggested we actually split up our half-plot a certain way to maximize its usage.  It was very helpful!  Then she excused herself to go get some onions in before nightfall.  The hubby and I measured out the plot, staked it and started turning over the soil.  It didn’t have any cover planted on it so it was much easier to turn over than Lev’s plot had been! The hubby decided to go over to see Jenny’s plot while I started picking rocks out.  He came back with 44 onion plants!  Jenny had too many and she offered them to us.

Onions!

Onions!

So I’ve planted the onions now and hopefully at least some of the onions will actually grow.  So exciting!  We turned over a bit more of the dirt and plan to do some more tomorrow.  We told Jenny we were going to Pigliavento’s to look for heirloom strawberry plants tomorrow and she said to pick her up a strawberry plant if we got any.  After 44 onions – hell yes!

This is our REAL plot

This is our REAL plot

Yay for garden neighbors 🙂

The Mystery Plant

Ok, today’s guess is Brussels Sprout.  Here’s another picture of the plant:

Mystery plant

Mystery plant

Compare to this pic I found of brussel sprouts:

Brussel Sprouts

What do you think?  The hubby says it’s a match.

We went to the plot tonight to plow the earth.  We got about 1/3 of the way through the plot before we were exhausted.  There are lots of little rocks, but the dirt is soft and rich!

Turning over the dirt

Turning over the dirt

We are seriously hoping we have the right plot now.  After we finished, we started getting nervous that we might be working the wrong one.  Hubby is going to call tomorrow just to make sure.  Otherwise that was a lot of work for nothing!

And one more pic.  Here is the community garden shed.  Lots of tools for our use!

Garden Shed

Garden Shed

ETA:  We did plow up the wrong plot!  We are actually the next plot over from the one we turned over.  There were a few anxious moments after we told CDCG that we’d turned over someone else’s plot, but luckily the news came back that the guy was ok with it.  In fact, he said to tell us “thanks for helping me out with my plowing!”

Gosh darn it, I can’t believe we have to do that all over again.

More garden pics

The hubby had off on Good Friday and took my camera, since his is still broken, to take some better pics of our garden plot.

The entrance to the community garden

The entrance to the community garden

It’s not really much to look at.

Our plot

Our plot

Does anyone have any idea what those “stumps” are?  We can’t figure out what grew there last year.

Strawberry plants

Strawberry plants

These are left over from last year.

The plot next to us

The plot next to us

Some people got a very early start! They already have seedlings!

We have a garden!

Hubby and I attended our community garden orientation Monday evening and are now the proud…er… “renters” of a half-plot for the season, woohoo!!

Being a community gardener is a little bit more involved than I would have thought it, and I do admit it’s going to be pushing me outside of my comfort boundaries a little.  Probably a good thing for me though.  It took me back to my days working for a non-profit as we walked up the stairs in a huge old school building in a pretty bad area of Schenectady.  We could hear the kids in the afterschool programs screaming in the gym/auditorium and shook our head at the condition of the hallways and classrooms.  It’s hard to imagine how the teachers do so much in such terrible conditions.

There were supposed to be 20 people in our orientation session, but only 7 showed.  Nobody looked quite like us.  Most looked like they needed a shower.  There was this crazy-looking guy (the only one without a partner) who evidently has gardened for years (apparently not with a community garden though)  and asked question after question.  There was the “hippie couple” who quizzed one of the orientation leaders about a new high school program that was being set up to teach inner-city youth about commercial farming to see if only organic methods would be used.  There was another couple in what seemed like dire need of a shower in the front row – very quiet.  And towards the end, two African American gentleman came in, very polite.  I looked at hubby and I, dressed in business clothes after a day at the office and felt ashamed that we didn’t give much more than the recommended donation (a little bit more, but not a ton).  It’s going to be good to break down my prejudices.  Not to say I’m bigotted or anything, but I obviously felt uncomfortable, and I shouldn’t.

The orientation leaders (there were 4 of them) explained to us how the community gardens worked, how we each would have a community chore to do as well for the whole garden, in addition to our plot.  We, along with 3 other people will be helping to mow/weedwhack around the edges.  They explained to us how the watering worked, what we can and cannot plant, the rules of the garden, lots of stuff.  There will also be a spring work party and a fall work party to clean up the garden at the beginning and the end of the season.  I admit, I feel a little bit overwhelmed.  I thought I would just give some money, be given a plot, and be let loose to plant what I wanted to (within reason  of course) with no interaction with anyone.  Um…apparently I missed the “community” aspect of this 🙂

I’m clearly desperately unsociable! 🙂

There are 48 community gardens run by CBCG.  Some are bigger than others, and we are in one of the biggest in Schenectady.  They have plots over in Albany and Troy as well though!  Albany’s are pretty cool – the city gives free mulch and plows up the gardens the first week of April so they can get started quickly over there!

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There was such a demand for community garden plots this year, they are only giving out half-plots to new gardeners.  Returning gardeners will get full plots.  But do you know the size of a half-plot?  When hubby and I drove out to it after our meeting, we were floored – a good 6×25 feet – easy!  I thought (and would have been happy with) 4 feet of space 🙂 It beats container planting on our deck!

In the dreary snowy weather of the day, hubby and I didn’t see much that would need mowing.  The area around the gardens are pretty rocky – it’ll be a bitch to mow.  They had told us our plot wasn’t used last year – the people who signed up for it abandoned it after awhile, but it looked like stuff HAD grown there last year.  We saw stumps of some old plant (couldn’t tell what it was) and old strawberry plants.  It would be great if we had strawberries growing on their own there already!  The community shed looked in great condition.  We checked off that we would plow and turn our own plot – if you wanted to wait till the end of May, they’ll do it for you, but hopefully we’ll get started before then.  It will burn off lots of calories, if nothing else!

Our garden plot

Our garden plot

Hubby took some pics of the plot, but we realized when we downloaded this one, his camera is clearly broken and all the colors and quality is off.  Boo!

We got to choose a few seeds to get us started.  We want to plant heirlooms, so we picked out three that sounded interesting. Heirlooms are basically “old school” veggies and fruits.  They’re the seeds that were planted and grown for decades, even centuries when farming was done by local people instead of the huge agri-business there is today.  As a result, unlike the majority of seeds you buy today in most stores, they are not genetically modified at all.  I’m a bit horrified at the thought that almost every seed packet you buy, in Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kmart, any big store – the seeds have been genetically modified.  Here are three we chose, but we’ll be planting lots more to fill our 150+ square feet!

Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce

Deer Tongue lettuce, also known as Matchless lettuce, dates back to the early 1740s, whereas the Amish Deer Tongue lettuce is variety from a later era–circa 1840.  The name, deer tongue, comes from its pointed leaves that are triangularly shaped with green straight edges.

Because of its heat tolerance, it is said to be less prone to bolting under high temperatures. The lettuce has a thin midrib, good texture and wonderful flavor that is pleasantly sharp. This plant is great for home gardeners as it is tolerant of different climates.

(From http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/ark_product_detail/amish_deer_tongue_lettuce/)

Moon and Stars Watermelon

A spectacular watermelon, with fine flavor, introduced by the Henderson seed company in 1926. The skin is deep green, speckled with hundreds of golden yellow stars and a few half-dollar sized moons. Even the foliage has yellow “stars”. The fruit is red. Melons are medium sized 25 pounds and slightly oblong.

From: http://www.burpee.com/product/vegetables/heirloom+vegetables/watermelon+moon+and+stars+%28heirloom%29+-+1+pkt.+%2830+seeds%29.do

Catskill Brussel Sprouts

I’m very excited about these! Not only are they heirloom, they’re local!

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Seed packets

We’re busy most of the weekends of April, but every weekend in May except one is free so far!  Yay for gardening!

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Planting tomatoes at the CDCG

Planting tomatoes at the CDCG

I’m home from the hospital and taking it easy this weekend. I don’t have results yet (will wait till early next week to hear from my doc) but I came through it ok. I think the next few days will be spent relaxing around the house and getting ready for Monday’s orientation meeting at the Capital District Community Gardens.

Louise's Leaves

Louise's Leaves

We picked up this locally-produced book at the co-op called “Louise’s Leaves.” It’s a cook’s journal that talks about which local foods will be ready and when (it was written for the Buffalo/Vermont area – so perfect for us). Even though we won’t be getting the fruits of our gardening for many moons yet, I took a gander to see what we local foods we could possibly be eating if we had a year long garden. Although the book “year” technically begins in May, I skimmed forward to the following April (the last chapter) to see what we could expect. Apparently the “big” items are kale and parsnips…doesn’t sound too yummy. But I am impressed that anything could be expected to grow in this tundra in early April. She recommends making a nice Kale slaw or stir-frying parsnips with some kale leaf and seasoning it with some chive and coriander. I’m already looking for some heirloom chive seeds to grow – I love onions and garlic a little TOO much.

We’ve been told that the most popular garden spot in Schenectady is still available, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for it! Our local community gardens have been tended for over 30 years, and currently there are 48 different locations through the Capital District Area. Most of the gardens do seem to be towards the… not as nice neighborhoods, but it’s a wonderful thing to bring gardening, fresh fruits and vegetables, and organic values to people who might not otherwise get to experience them.

The Capital District Community Gardens are organic – both in fertilizing and and growing methods. This is exciting because hubby and I don’t have to worry that our garden will be “contaminated” by commercial pesticides in the next garden plot over. The CDCG actually will give us free gardening classes and free seeds, but I’m enjoying looking at all the different seeds out there. We’re not sure exactly how big our plot will be yet, so I don’t want to make too many decisions before we know.

According to the seed planting schedule though, we can start planting the following plants in the next two weeks:

  • beets
  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • chinese cabbage (this and cabbage could have been planted this week, but we don’t have our plot yet)
  • onions
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • radish
  • spinach

I LUFF SPINACH!! It is my favorite veggie in the whole wide world. And it’s sooo expensive at farmer’s markets. I really hope I can grow lots of it this summer!