Friday, May 21, 2010

So Many Things to Learn

Today I've been repeatedly faced with my gardening shortcomings. First, I found out that my Canada Thistle eradication efforts were only making things worse. Our front flower bed, which runs the entire length of the house, is completely infested with these evil weeds. I thought that by pulling them out before they flowered I would be making good headway. Turns out that each time you break the root, it produces several more plants. So... I guess I'm going to try cutting them off at gound level as often as possible in hopes that I'll eventually weaken the root systems enough that they'll stop growing back.

Then, I moved my seedlings outside this morning to continue hardening them off in preparation for planting them this weekend, and I took a good look at them. Even though we had fluorescent lights on them for 16 hours a day, and also had them in a south facing window, they don't look a heck of a lot better than the ones we started last year. At least my tomato plants aren't pale or leggy this year, but instead are dark purple and still very small, with only a couple of true leaves at this point. When I looked at a gardening forum this morning, where purple tomato seedlings were the topic of discussion, I was really disheartened to see what other people's tomato plants looked like by the time they're getting them in the garden. They've got to be 20 times bigger! My seedlings always look like this, though, and usually survive just fine (except when a late frost comes in, like last year). But I can't help but think how much earlier I'd get fruit and how much better the crop would be if they had a better start.

And finally, when I checked the garden for progress, the potatoes are coming up (yay!) but the peas haven't grown much in the last couple of weeks, and the spinach is pretty much non-existant. It came up about a week after I planted it, but since then it's barely grown at all. I know the last week in April is a bit late for spinach, but we planted it the same time last year, and had no problem. Perhaps it was the freak weekend of almost 90 degree weather we had shortly after I put the seeds in the ground. Maybe the soil isn't to their liking. I just don't know...

But it's a beautiful day outside, so I'll try not to dwell on it. Learning from mistakes is all part of the process.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week 1: Buy Better Milk

After watching Food, Inc. and No Impact Man recently, we realized that we've been getting kind of lax with some of our lifestyle choices. Having a baby definitely makes it tempting to do things based on convenience rather than conscience. So to get ourselves back on track we've decided to make one new resolution each week that we'll try to make a part of our everyday lives.

This week, we're going to stop buying supermarket milk. We like Stoneyfield, but we're lucky enough to have a great local company that sells grass-fed, certified organic, gently pasteurized milk that comes in returnable glass bottles.

I'll have to go a little bit out of my way to get it, and remember to wash and take back the bottles, but it'll be worth it. Not only does their milk taste like real milk, but we'll also be getting extra CLA and Omega-3 fatty acids. All of their farms are located in Lancaster County, so it should all come from about 50 miles away or less. And we won't have to worry about what the packaging is made of or where it goes after we're done using it. And even though it costs a little bit more, the money we spend stays local and supports our farming neighbors. If you're interested in finding local grass-fed milk, check out Eat Wild.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Baby Fruits

Our yard is ripe with new growth and the start of this year's backyard fruit crop. Take a look at some of the little ones...



Wild Raspberries


Kousa Dogwood fruits

I'm optimistic that we'll have a good harvest for cider, pies and wines later this summer.  We'll let you know how we do!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Overwintered Kale and Spring Peas

The kale we planted last fall never grew very big, so we didn't end up harvesting any of it. We just left the scrawny little plants in the garden over winter, and we were surprised when they were still alive come spring. Now they've got beautiful yellow flowers and plenty of seed pods on them!

Since kale will cross with other Brassicas, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, saving seed can be tricky. But considering that we don't have any of those growing nearby at the moment, we should be able to get a pretty nice seed harvest for planting next year!

Peas are also great to save for seed, and we plan to do just that with some of our fall crop. But our spring crop will be all for eating, and I was pleased to find these pea shoots coming up in the garden this morning.

Peas are one of my favorite garden vegetables. They're easy to grow. You just pop them in the soil, no indoor starting to fuss with, and they pretty much take care of themselves, making up for the extra effort involved in shelling! They're worth growing in the home garden for fresh eating because they're so much sweeter than anything you'll get from the market, but they also freeze beautifully for something green to eat all winter long. Also, we can't forget to mention how useful the pods can be. We planted about 100 pea seeds, and plan to plant the same number again in July as a fall crop. I'm hoping for a freezer full!