A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘red sail’

Catch the bolting broccoli before it flowers!

Bolting broccoli

The high temperature yesterday was nearly 80 degrees – a big swing from the low temperature of 42 degrees we enjoyed overnight.  The broccoli plants must have gotten confused and thought it was summer because they spent all their energies stretching their crowns up to the sky!   (Broccoli will bolt when the weather is too warm, which means stretching up towards the sun to begin flowering.)  Fortunately, no flowering occurred, and we harvested and each ate a large portion of broccoli with our dinner last night.   Calabrese broccoli has a very mild flavor, and it was delicious steamed and plain.  I’m not usually one to eat broccoli stalks, but I found myself really enjoying the softer center of the stalk.  I had to stop myself from peeling off the outer skin, reminding myself that it is full of nutrients, too.  I think that when I’m finished harvesting crowns and shoots, I’m definitely going to harvest what I can of the stalks, cut them up and freeze them for broccoli cheese soup later on.   I’m wondering how my two newest broccoli plants will fare after transplanting them.  Will they produce well or simply bolt?  Well, there’s only one sure-fire way to figure that out.  Plant them!

Meanwhile, the spinach plants have really grown in size the past week or so since my last post.  Abundant sunshine mixed with some rain showers here and there works like magic – with the added help of fish emulsion foliage sprays!   I think I’ll make a big salad tonight for the family, mix in some spinach leaves, red sail lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce and cosmo savoy lettuce.  If we still have our homegrown carrots left, I also like to shred carrots on my salad.   Using ingredients I have at home (Bragg’s Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, ground savory, and dried fennel), I can add homegrown dried thyme, lavender, rosemary, sage, oregano,oram and basil to make a nice Herbs de Provence salad dressing to top it off.  Nothing fancy to the herb recipe, just a couple tablespoons of each, mixed together well.   (Incidentally, this is also a great marinade for chicken.)

I harvested three heads of lettuce yesterday because I have so many maturing at the same time.  I washed and spun the leaves and brought a full grocery sack up to work for my colleagues to enjoy.  Looks like over half the bag is eaten!  There are a couple other gardeners here who like to share their bounty with the rest of us, so it’s nice to be able to have enough to share as well.    I’ll probably need to cut down a couple more heads and run them over to my mother-in-law’s house this weekend.  Don’t want good lettuce to go to waste!

Broccoli bed after harvesting

More broccoli crowns forming


Austin Area: It’s six weeks until the last average frost!

It has been sixteen days since I sowed the lettuce seeds in the new Burpee seed starting kit.  They’re progressing nicely.  I’ll have to transplant them into larger cells before I can harden them off and move them into their beds.   Judging from the root growth, I should do that within the week.  The other plants are doing well: 6 Calabrese broccoli, 5 Cal Wonder orange bell peppers, 4 Ring-O-Fire cayenne peppers, 1 Bloomsdale Spinach, 10 Sweet Alyssum, 1 Verbena and 4 Mexican Mint Marigold.  I’ve got 6 jalapeno seeds and 6 habanero seeds planted as well.  We’ll see what they do.  Here in a couple of weeks I’ll be starting a bunch more seeds for several different types of veggies and flowers.

These small lettuce plants are less than two weeks old.

Lettuce give thanks

I’m thankful for the great lettuce weather.   The light freeze we’ve had the past couple of nights gives the lettuce a bit of a strain, but after wilting in the morning, it rebounds crisp and tall by afternoon.  The Red Sail is a very soft variety with a velvety feel in the mouth.  It’s great in a salad.  The Buttercrunch is also very smooth and buttery in texture and blends nicely with the Red Sail in a salad.  Cosmo Savoy is a little crunchier, perfect for a slice or two on a sandwich or burger.   I’m in need of the latter for our sandwiches this week, so I’ll be trimming leaves off the Cosmo.  I’ve found that I can trim the entire head down to 2″ above the ground and it will continue growing, or I can peel off leaves as needed.  For our sandwich purposes each day, I’ll just have to go outside and peel a few leaves off and pack them with our lunch.  A little Boar’s Head chicken lunch meat, jalapeno jack cheese and coarse-ground mustard on sprouted grain bread, topped with some beautiful fresh lettuce.  I’m hungry already!

Lettuce/parsley bed

Lettuce bed 2 of 3, these will be ready in a couple of weeks

the Red Sail is good-sized now

Lettuce weather is good spinach weather, too.  I’m happy to say they’re finally starting to fill out with more leaves!

Popeye eat your heart out - I'm glad these are producing more leaves

And I thought I’d take a look at the rosemary transplants and cuttings.  They’ve all got a lot of new growth poking out everywhere and the stems are becoming very thick.

transplanted rosemary cuttings from fall have new growth exploding everywhere

new growth all over!

Lots of new growth on the latest rosemary cuttings

What’s up in the garden today

Lettuce Bed 1 with parsley

The lettuce bed is really looking nice.  The curled parsley is full and fluffy.  The cosmo savoy lettuce (romaine variety, right) towers above the others and is ready for harvesting any day now.  I lost one buttercrunch to a hungry caterpillar.  Unfortunately, I think he ate it off a little too low and it may not grow back.  The hard rain knocked a few leaves loose on the red sail, so I trimmed them off along with several others and made a salad.  I can see why the rain knocked them loose.  The leaves were so soft and tender.  I added just a dash of olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar and it was delightful.  They’ll continue to do well into the cooler parts of fall and through winter.  I’ve got sixteen (er, fifteen) plants above, and another forty or so started elsewhere.  Sometime this week I’ll get another round of seeds going to keep up with a three-week successive planting cycle.  I’m going to continue sowing seeds through March.

Cosmo savoy lettuce, a variety of romaine


The first harvest of organic home-grown lettuce. This is the Red Sail variety.


One of the buttercrunch variety lettuce - destroyed by a looper.

This is the damage caused by a green looper


Red sail after I took a few leaves and enjoyed a nice salad

Red sail lettuce after a contribution to my salad bowl

This is lettuce bed number 2.

The carrot tops are really growing.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I could make out distinct rows and now the tops have all grown together to create this really feathery feeling canopy.    I just had to get down on the “forest floor” – if you will – to take a couple pics.  I’ve got three rows each of Danvers Half Long and Big Top going …

You know, the spinach is proving to be disappointing.  I’ve read that it is slow to start.  It sure has been.  I read that spinach likes rich soil.  I’ve got that.  Plenty of fresh compost, tea, and small additions of worm castings and fish emulsion should be providing everything they need.  I read that a sulfur deficiency might cause them to be stunted.  So I mixed up some epsom salts and added it to some rainwater a couple of weeks ago.  Since then, I’ve notice an improvement, but nothing significant.   The unused beds on the other side of the house show promise.  I have five going there, and another dozen in the ground waiting to germinate.  Up until now, all the spinach I’ve tried growing has been germinated inside and transplanted.  Perhaps this is the problem.  From my experience with this batch of seeds, I’m betting about a 60 percent germination rate, so I hope to increase this by direct sowing.  Who knows.  I’m still so new to this, every day is an experiment.

This is the first spinach bed. They are struggling...

This is the second spinach bed.

Up close of one of the lil' spinach plants in the second bed.

The broccoli bed is doing good, but I’m afraid they won’t produce.  While the leaves are hardy the flower is not and the flower is what I’m after.  The first frost didn’t really hit us yet, but if it starts flowering I don’t think it will have enough time to form the nice stalk and head that I hoped for.  I knew this was likely to happen.  When I planted the seeds at the end of August, first of September, I thought I was right on schedule.  But, as I read more, I should have had transplants in the ground by that time.   So, I probably cost myself a harvest by thirty days or so.  Live and learn.  I’ll be starting seeds in January for late February transplanting and that should give me enough time for a spring harvest.

Nonetheless, here is the broccoli bed

In the corner of the yard is an experiment in how prolific mint plants are.  These started off as cuttings.  I’ve since buried several sections of peppermint as well as the spearmint.  Some of them have already popped up, but I’ll also add a nice peppermint clone to the lot of them.  I just need to take the time to do that.  Maybe the weather will be more agreeable tomorrow.

The peppermint and spearmint continue to spread

peppermint clone

I’ve got thirty bell pepper growing right now, all at different stages.  This one is almost at the end of the line, ready for us to enjoy in a nice stir-fry.  Meanwhile, I still have only one jalapeno!   For Spring, I’ve ordered some Cali Wonder orange bells and some ring-o-fire cayenne pepper seeds.  If need be, I’ll take my jalapenos inside and continue growing them for a couple of months until spring.  They should be nice, big plants by then – and hopefully a lot more productive.

This bell pepper is almost done. Just a little more green yet on the bottom ...

The beans are another one that I’ve struggled with.  I think this is because I didn’t opt to inoculate the seeds – something recommended for legumes, especially if growing them in a section of soil for the first time.  The transplants I added later did much better.  I grew them from seed in Jiffy Mix, which seems to have aided their growth – along with the compost tea.  The picture below is of one of the bean transplants, which is going to produce a couple of handfuls of beans from the looks of it.  I harvested another handful of beans, which I blanched, cooled quickly and stuck in the freezer.  I have enough for a couple of servings right now, but I’d like to harvest more and save them for later use.

more beans, almost ready to harvest

The last thing I’d like to note is the progress in the wildflower bed.  I’ve since edged it with rock to keep the grass from spreading into the bed and to keep the lawnmower out.  I can see a handful of different varieties at this stage, but I can’t really tell you what is what yet.

Update on organic lettuce beds

The lettuce bed is growing nicely.  The sixteen transplants I put in a few weeks ago, although really tiny, have really taken off over the past week or two – was it the compost tea?   These shots were taken yesterday before all of the rain.  I was up at seven tending to a few things in the yard, and I gave everything a short little drink of a mixture of fish emulsion and compost tea.


First lettuce bed, 11/8/09

red sail

Red Sail lettuce

cosmo savoy

Cosmo Savoy lettuce


Buttercrunch lettuce

The parsley is well-established now.  I put them in a few days prior to the lettuce.  We harvested a good clump yesterday.   Michelle mixed it and some fresh chives in with some cream cheese and sour cream to make a Green Goddess dip for our coqu au vin chicken and vegetables.  It was delectable!


Curled-leaf parsley

And, for comparison sake, here is the same bed three weeks prior.

lettuce parsley

parsley/lettuce bed 10/16/09

I also had twenty or so lettuce starts coming up that I needed to do something with, so I took advantage of the overcast day and planted them in the bed that I originally prepared for the yellow crookneck squash that perished due to aphids.  The area is more shaded now than it was in the summer when I put the beds together.   I think it will be perfect for growing the lettuce and spinach, which both love cooler weather and dappled light.

lettuce starts

Here are the newest lettuce starts before transplanting

new lettuce bed

And here they are in the new lettuce bed (what used to be yellow squash)

I had a few spinach sprouts going in toilet paper tubes – three of twelve that germinated (that sucks!).  The others that I transplanted a week or two ago have not really done much at all.  I read that spinach is very slow to start and then grows like crazy.  I hope this is what is happening here.  I thought I’d transplant these three new plants earlier than I did with the others and see if that helps them.  The dirt in the new bed has some new compost mixed into the top six inches of soil.  I’ve watered it with compost tea and let it sit a couple of weeks.  I can tell that it is working because there are strands of fungi across the top of the soil, and as I was digging, I found a few earthworms.  The soil appears to be pretty healthy.  Nonetheless, I dug a hole for the transplants, added a handful of fresh compost, watered the hole with a mixture of fish emulsion and compost tea, dropped the transplant in and filled in the hole with compost and watered again with the compost tea mixture.  I also did something different with these transplants: I completely removed the paper lining to allow them to easily grow into the rich soil around them.

spinach sprout

a spinach sprout, one of three, before transplanting

spinach starts

spinach transplanted in their new bed (used to be cucumbers)

I’ve still got 2/3’s of the new spinach bed empty, waiting for more spinach.  I’ve got three more seeds planted now, and as of this morning, two of them have sprouted.  I’ll be able to add them to the bed in a week or two.   I’ve also got another round of lettuce sprouts already coming up – it only takes a few days given the cool weather we’ve enjoyed lately.