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Garden Local Food

Belgian Lettuce 2020

Belgian lettuce patch with arugula

Today I planted Belgian lettuce. There is nothing particularly “Belgian” about the seeds. According to my maternal grandmother it is called Belgian lettuce because it is planted March 2. It’s the tradition and that’s that.

I planted arugula as well because when everything is mixed together in a salad it will taste great. I planted:

Lettuce

Mesclun Mix of Seven Varieties, Ferry-Morse, 40-80 days.

Arugula

Arugula/Roquette Heirloom Variety, Ferry-Morse, 40 days.
Rocket Salad Coltivata Da Orto, Ferry-Morse, 60 days.

The ground was still frozen about an inch below the surface, so no other planting today. This morning’s activities signal the beginning of the garden.

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Cooking Garden

Thursday Between Storms

Onion Starts in Containers

The morning was brilliant. Not only the sun, but life all around us as I worked in the garden on what has become a rare sunny morning this season. The sky is now clouding up with scattered thunderstorms forecast this afternoon. We are in between storms.

I direct-planted Early Scarlet Globe Radishes from Ferry-Morse, 25 days. I also planted the last of the onion starts from the farm for scallions.

The ground is saturated. I took down the chicken-wire fence around the early spring plantings and water was evident near the surface — under the grass in the walkway around it. It felt squishy.

Footprint between turnips and carrots.

The plot urgently needed weeding. I obliged, filling my bushel basket with weeds several times. I harvested the last of the first radishes, turnips, arugula and four kinds of lettuce. Even with competition the original plantings are looking great: beets, turnips, sugar snap peas, lettuce, arugula and carrots. While ground moisture made it easier to weed, by walking on it I added to compression that already existed. The plants look robust but I’m not sure how the excess ground moisture will impact yield.

In the kitchen I’m planning some kind of turnip-arugula dish with dinner. A classic is shaved turnips with arugula tossed in a dressing of homemade cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. I have plenty of turnips, but only two cups of arugula. (I had forgotten I planted arugula). The other option is to braise the turnips in butter then toss them with the arugula and maybe some other kind of cooking greens. Seems the dish would need garlic. Maybe I could make a dressing with the cooking remains, minced garlic and some cider vinegar. Or maybe I could toss the whole works with some of the lettuce harvested today. While there’s no certainty, there are possibilities. This is how a kitchen garden works.

Turnips

I’m not giving up on the garden. I considered mud planting the celery then thought the better of it. The ground is just too wet. So I wait.

It is surprising how just a few hours in the garden finds work for idle hands, clearing the fog of storm-related stress away. I’m not sure when the weather pattern began but is has been weird since the beginning of January. I expect we are only seeing the beginning of the weirdness. That is no reason to stop living.

I planted reserved seedlings of Blue Wind broccoli where others had failed. The plot is under the locust tree and one corner of it may be a problem for anything to grow. We should get some broccoli, and if the slow-starting seedlings mature, it will be in progression. We love fresh broccoli.

I find myself referring to these garden posts frequently to review when something was planted. There is value in trying to remember what I did on Thursday morning. There is hope of a delicious dinner made partly by the work of my hands. That’s why I am a gardener.

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Garden

First Dig

Abandoned Silo

On Monday I inspected the garden plots and the ground remained too cold and wet.

Later in the week I made the first dig and the soil was clean of frost the 10-inch length of the divot. There were earthworms too. We’re getting close.

I finished pruning the apple trees and began to make a burn pile.

At the farm I planted:

Spinach;

Bloomsdale Long Standing, Ferry – Morse, 45 days.
Teton Hybrid, Ferry – Morse, 50 days.

Lettuce:

Buttercrunch, Ferry – Morse, 70 days.
Black Seeded Simpson, Ferry – Morse, 45 days.

Everything planted in the greenhouse has germinated, except the parsley.

Summary: Total of five trays in the greenhouse and all appear to be doing well. The ground should be ready for digging a row of earlies (lettuce, carrots, turnips and beets) this week.

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Garden

A Blustery Day with Lettuce

Belgian Lettuce Harvest
Belgian Lettuce Harvest

Holy cats it was windy yesterday!

My to-do list was long, the weather sunny and dry, and danger for frost long past.

It was time to focus on planting.

The blustery day took its toll long before everything was erased from the white board.

As readers can see from the diagram, indecision plagued execution of the planting. In the end, I planted more kale than expected (26 plants of three varieties in two rows) and left the rest open. The morning after, I plan to wait until the soil warms a bit and plant a long row of hot peppers (5 varieties, spaced 18 inches in a 19-foot row) and finish with two rows of red beans in this plot. While I planned to work two plots, the wind took my energy before starting the second and the clock timed out.

Saturday Plan
Saturday Plan

I slept nine hours last night.

Later this morning it’s back to work at the farm. Most seedlings will be outside seasoning while I’m gone as the tray-based numbers diminish and move to the soil.

Life is not only about gardening as much as some days I wish it were.

My solar-powered garden radio pulled in a signal with The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart while I was breaking up the clods of turned soil with a hoe. After my shower, I found this bar-graph version of the overture, which helped me better understand the music.

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Garden

First Spade of Soil

Close View of the Garden Before Tilling
Close View of the Garden

The first spadeful of earth was waterlogged. There was no frost more than a foot deep, so I’ll be ready to plant lettuce March 2.

My maternal grandmother called this planting “Belgian lettuce.” I follow the tradition whenever conditions permit. Reserving some lettuce seeds to plant in trays, the rest will be broadcast in a small plot. I will also plant some turnips — mostly for the greens.

The calendar shows it is winter, but spring is everywhere.

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Garden

Garden Fences

Spring Lettuce
Spring Lettuce

Here’s what is surprising. The vegetables outside the garden fences are mostly untouched by rabbits, deer and other critters. Some behind fences are getting nibbled.

Who knew I could leave lettuce, turnips, carrots, radishes, spinach and other plants unfenced and the animals would stay away. Maybe I’m just lucky… or maybe someone knows an answer.

Next garden workday I’ll harvest and see how it goes the rest of the season.

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Garden Home Life Local Food Work Life

Hacking Through

Peas
Peas

It’s been a tough couple of weeks complicated by a lingering and persistent impulse to void the rheum of excess mucus. I don’t feel ill for the most part, but the coughing has been terrible.

Missing work without sick pay means less income and a further exploration of the life of low wage workers. Well into the experiment in alternative lifestyle, I don’t see how people can make ends meet, even working three jobs as I have been doing this spring. That said, I won’t give up and expect to continue hacking through this rough patch—literally.

I picked lettuce, spinach and radishes from the garden the last two nights and made a frittata for dinner with greens from the CSA, spring garlic and onions. It was satisfying served with a salad, and there were leftovers. Already garden production is worth savoring. Between now and Memorial Day, the focus is on getting the spring planting done.

For the moment that’s all there is to say except change is coming. To make this life more sustainable, to improve our economic base. How change will look is an open question. I look forward to seeing how it comes together.

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Garden

Spring Work Day

Early Lettuce Patch
Early Lettuce Patch

After delays, the early lettuce is planted in two places. I raked a small patch of ground and broadcast four varieties with maturity days of from 45 to 50, and finished it with broadcast turnip seeds. If all goes well there should be lettuce by May and early turnip greens for stock.

I also tried something new.

Open Compost Pile
Open Compost Pile

With three barrels of composted horse manure from a friend, I cleared out the branches and covered the surface of my open air compost heap with the organic matter. Then I broadcast some Nevada 56 days to maturity lettuce on top, along with the remains of 2013 French Breakfast Radish seeds. Assuming this goes as planned, there should be radishes by April 10, and lettuce afterward. I don’t know if this is a good idea, but I’m not ready to turn the compost and spread it on the garden, so let’s see if I can get some production beforehand.

Compost Bin with Manure
Compost Bin with Manure

The rest of the compost—mostly dropped by horses the last couple of days—has been placed either inside or beside the kitchen compost bin and is already at work. As more kitchen scraps are added, I’ll use the manure to cover them.

Today was my first work day, and while I got some things done, I’m not in the groove yet. The productivity index is low. But like with everything just beginning, exercising diligence will get me into a groove before long. Maybe by the time the radishes are ready.

Categories
Garden Local Food

June Lettuce Planting

Lettuce and Broccoli
Lettuce and Broccoli

LAKE MACBRIDE— According to a local organic farmer, “one of the most common mistakes home gardeners make is not planting sequentially.” What does that mean?

Certain crops, like lettuce, spinach and radishes, have a short planting to harvest cycle, and multiple crops can be planted during a season. That is, as soon as one row is harvested, another can be planted as long as the plants can tolerate weather as it get hotter and dryer.

What I learned at the farm this year is that lettuce produces the best crops when they are planted as individual seeds in a starter tray, then transferred to the garden as seedlings when the ground is ready. This accomplishes two things.

First, and this is really important, when planting lettuce, plant individual seeds, using a starter tray, or an old egg carton. Because lettuce seeds are so small, the temptation is to sow more than one together. By using a starter tray, and one seed per cell, if one cell fails to germinate, no problem when planting the seedlings in the rows in the soil. If the seed didn’t produce in the starter tray, there is no seedling to transplant. Planting single seeds ensures sufficient moisture and nutrients for each head of lettuce by avoiding over-crowding. It makes for larger leaves.

Second, by planting seeds in trays, the garden space can be more productive. A four week old seedling will take less time to mature once it is planted in the garden. If timed properly, a garden can be in lettuce most of the summer, into fall. For example, I have two and four week seedlings started in successive trays. They’ll be ready to plant when the current crop is harvested.

Avoid a common mistake, plant lettuce sequentially this June.

~ Written for Iowa City Patch

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Garden Local Food

Morning Vegetable Harvest

Fresh Broccoli
Fresh Broccoli
Freshly Picked Lettuce
Freshly Picked Lettuce