Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What we've been eating and solar oven news

We've been lucky enough to be able to eat from the garden for a while now. The broccoli was ready around March 6th and we've been enjoying it regularly until most of it quit a few days ago (the younger plants are starting now). We've also had spinach by the mound - almost too much spinach! - for weeks now. Also kale, mesclun mix, and last year's onions that sprouted in the fall, too, as well as carrots, Asian greens, a couple of leftover kohlrabi, and garlic scapes. Lots to eat and enjoy!

Luckily, the ridiculous, crazy, out-of-control compost gift butternut squash, or the Lewru Special, as my friend Frau calls it, produced 17 squash on one vine last year! NUTS! So we've been slowly working our way through that. It stores really well! I was surprised, actually. Here it is almost a year and I've got one left that looks to be in great condition.

It has been trickier than you might to think to use up 16 butternut squash when you have a husband who doesn't think vegetables should be sweet. I've had to dress it up with sauces and disguise it in frittatas and mash it into chili and cakes and such. I think my habanero cream sauce was a hit, and the savory pumpkin quiche (which could just as easily have been butternut squash) went over well, too. I definitely got creative with the vegetable!

My inaugural run of the sun oven resulted in a beautifully sunkissed butternut squash. Then last weekend I baked that into two loaves of butternut squash bread which turned out magnificently! All in all, it's been a nice time to eat from the garden...still looking forward to tomatoes and peppers, though!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oklahoma is the New Oregon!

...yep, that's right! Without the hipsters and the bike messengers and the crazy cool art and music scene (ours is on a much smaller scale), and, oh yeah, the mountains and ocean...but boy do we have rain! It's been cloudy and rainy since April 23. Today makes 14 straight days. 2 weeks of rain! We topped 7 inches over the past few days, with a community just East of us having 10 inches! Ouch! Flooding has been a problem in some areas, but luckily not at casa 36-95.

In the meantime, that "start your engines" theme I roared a few weeks back...yeah, that was a bit premature. I transplanted and planted that day, but then nothing since then until two days ago. It was just too rainy and chilly and the soil was too mucky to get much done. But on Monday afternoon I finally had a break in the weather that coincided with a break from work. So transplanting peppers was tops on the list.

I usually like to get my peppers out on April 15, same as the tomatoes. Some people think this is too early for heat-loving peppers. I say, let them get tough! If it gets really cold at night or something I'll cover them with frost blankets, but typically that's a late enough start that it doesn't freeze them out.

This year they got transplanted almost three weeks late on May 4. Weather was a problem, but I also wanted to wait until my broccoli was ready to pull out (sayonara broccoli, you were great while you lasted!). The peppers needed to go into their vacated homes, so it was sort of a waiting game.

I'm actually glad I waited, too, because the soil has warmed up some and they avoided getting waterlogged in all that rain. Monday I went out with my trusty Epsom salts and bone meal, a trowel, the flat of peppers, and a chart telling me what's what, as well as a sketchy map of the garden so I could know what's what went where.

Rodale's, which the regular reader will recognize as my gardening Bible, recommended transplanting with the mix of salts and bone meal in order to encourage good root growth. I tried it last year and it seemed to be a winner so I'm trying it again this year. So far I've only used it with tomatoes and peppers, though. (Incidentally, I have the 1992 edition of the Rodale's encyclopedia and but I'd really like to get the new version that just came out in February of this year...)

After digging out a hole slightly bigger than the root mass and soil ball of the plant I wanted to transplant, I mixed about two or three teaspoons of salt with 2 tablespoons or so of bone meal (available at any garden store in the natural section). Last year I included compost, too, but this year I'm trying it without to see if that encourages the roots to spread faster rather than staying in one little ball for too long, feasting on compost. The book didn't mention anything about salt and grubbies, but I know that if you mix salt and slugs, for instance, you get a nasty (and probably painful) outcome. I try to avoid this by removing any slithery looking creature to a few inches away. I don't know if salt hurts worms, but I don't want to take that chance! They're garden heroes!

So once the salt/bone meal mix is in the hole, carefully pull the transplantee out of its former lodgings. I like to gently squeeze the plastic seed cell and invert it, if possible, to let gravity help. Be careful not to pull too hard on the stem or you can damage the roots. Once it's out, carefully plop it into the new hole, cover the root ball and fill in with soil, gently tamping down the whole bit to help the roots connect with soil. If you don't expect rain, water the transplants with a light stream. If it's sunny, you might want to protect them from bright sunshine for a few days until they get going. If they're small enough, I'll sometimes just cover them with leaves or set up a frost blanket propped up with sticks or something. No worries of that here, though. Remember: Oregon!

I still need to plant the corn in my three sisters garden (squash is a check but beans are still on hold, too), as well as ground cherries, basil with the tomatoes (they heart each other), some more poppies because I love them, and some green beans...ah summertime, I will never quit you! :)

I saw a question on a listserv I'm on about starting seeds indoors. While it's too late for early summer plants, seed starting is definitely still an option for a fall garden, so I'll post about that next. I've also been reading up about the tilling vs. not-ever-under-any-circumstances-tilling debate. So maybe I'll rustle up something on that.

As school dies down and the garden ramps up, so does this blog! Stay tuned!