Cold Frame Fun!

IMG_20160219_134124772_HDRIn fall 2014 we built our cold frames and had minimum success. I planted too late and it was too wet. There are no failures, simply lessons right? Some tweaks (and education) were needed!

I learned that I need 10 hours of daylight for germination and first growth. I learned that soil temps can’t barely be 40 and while damp is good, sopping soil is not. 🙂

IMG_20151026_172215996In Fall 2015 we adjusted the dates and did not plant in soil that was too cold and too wet! Those little adjustments have meant great success this year and we have had much fun eating fresh greens in Indiana throughout the winter!

Beautiful kale, spinach, chard, mizuna, beets, radishes and lettuce have been bountiful and we have benefited immensely on the dinner plate because of it!

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A couple of our boxes had such overwhelming growth that we added a second layer. Then they were still too short! Our spinach hit the glass and on some very, very cold days got frost bit under the glass and died. Honestly though, I cannot even see that as a failure— I mean having the spinach so out of control that it was bigger than a 12 inch high cold frame seems pretty awesome actually!

IMG_20160219_134117464_HDRToday was 60 degrees. We went out and gathered some kale and lettuce for dinner. What fun to do in February! While I was out there however in the warm temperatures I had an impulse… yep I had to plant some seeds! And I just happened to have some spinach seeds on me (don’t we all carry seeds in our pockets?)

So down I went and I pulled out of the soil the frost bitten spinach. The soil thermometer told me the soil was 45 degrees. I opened three of my spinach packs, drug my finger along to make a little trench and well… my first planting of the season!

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Well can you blame me? The previous spinach can decompose in the box and I am hoping I will be seeing some new growth here in the future!

Does the gardening bug have you?

Happy gardening!

FGU

Low Tunnel Update

IMG_20141011_190339283_HDRThis weekend the snow was gone and it peaked 50 degrees.  The soil in the cold frames was warmed up a bit (55 degrees from 40) so I planted some lettuce, claytonia, spinach and kale in there (winter varieties).

The low tunnels have been secured since we put them in. They have carried a load of snow and withheld some wicked winds. I was dying to know how things were doing in there. Plus it was sunny and warm with a bit of rain in the forecast for the afternoon so it was perfect timing to open them up for the day.

Here is what I saw!

Brocolini & broccoli, collards and brussel sprouts…

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brussel sprouts

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Cabbages…purple, green and pok choi

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Every one looks happy and growing except the cauliflowers. They are growing, but their leaves are turning white– not yellow but white. Hopefully a little research will tell me what they are lacking and experiencing.

They all enjoyed the warmth and the gentle rain in the afternoon. We covered them back up to protect them from the 40 + MPH winds we are expecting today. I am happy to see they are doing well. It was fun to peak for a bit!

Happy Unleashing!

FGU

Here Comes the Fall Garden!

As promised, I began my transition into fall yesterday on Oct. 1.  I am not 100% official yet, but have made some necessary moves in the right direction.  This morning for example, I am drinking hot apple cider tea. It is wonderfully “fallish”.

I do still have tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, yellow squash, beets and peppers… BUT the pumpkins are looking good and they are prepping for their appearance in a pie on Thanksgiving. AND we have begun to prep our fall garden!

Hubby has spent the last couple days clearing a new area at BSA (Big Sky Acres) for our fall and winter growing.  This area is closer to our house and will allow us easier access in the snow. Last year it was quite a trek to the gardens once the snow and ice hit. This bed he is prepping is 75 x 45. We are going to use low tunnels for the first time! Another Farmgirl Passage for me! I am SO excited.

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Each tunnel will house a 3 ft. x 20 ft. area of plants. There will be approximately 4 ft. between beds. We will use electrical conduit and frost cloth held down by bricks to enclose the spaces. Last year I used the same frost cloth in our garden for spinach, arugula and kale. It worked great in our area and we were still harvesting in January in the snow. It was incredible to eat so fresh in the dead of winter (even when we were snowed in!)

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We are really thrilled about expanding and using hoops to build low tunnels. I am hoping that I can grow broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower in the tunnels along with spinach and greens. In the spring (March) I will use the tunnels to get an early start on spring veggies. I have not done that before either. I have started summer crops in the pole barn and then planted in June, but planting in the ground in March and harvesting some greens, brussel sprouts and peas in May sounds really exciting! My ultimate goal is to be gardening year around. (can you tell that Eliot Coleman is my hero and who I want to be when I grow up?)

I have been hardening off our fall green babies and they are ready to hit the dirt! (literally) They are so cute…

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Seeds are selected for other things that will be growing like spinach, kale, lettuce, fava beans and a sundry of other yummy veggies!

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It was really fun out there last evening and watching my hubby prep this area. He is so good at prepping my gardens and he gets so happy working outside! Jasmine is enjoying hanging out in our new area also.You can see the first strip I will be planting later today. Isn’t it so pretty? (and hubby is not bad either :-))

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I will keep you posted as these get built out and hopefully down the road I will share some pictures of veggies getting picked in the snow!

Do any of you use low tunnels and garden all four seasons? Advice or tips are appreciated! (and begged for actually).

Happy Unleashing,

FGU

 

 

Roasted Veggie Bowl

We may be snowed in but we have lots of veggies and grains in the house so that means some good eating!

Real Simple magazine had an article on healthful bowls in their last issue. They listed ingredients to stock your pantry with and then select something from a variety of categories to come up with a delicious and nutritious meal. Our pantry just about looked like this list, so I thought it was perfect for me to try out.

I made a “Roasted Veggie Bowl with Farro and Greens” last night and I just have to brag here and say it was fantastic.  Real Simple gets much of the credit for certain.  I am so glad they inspired me with this (and a couple more that are coming up!)

Here we go:

First I roasted butternut squash (1/2 of a large one), 1/2 head of cauliflower, 1 zucchini and 1 purple onion.  They simply had a bit of olive oil , salt and pepper on them.  They roasted at 400 for about 35 minutes.

While they were roasting I put a handful of fresh spinach and sliced purple cabbage in a bowl.  Neither of these got cooked in any way.

I cooked some farro according to the bags instructions.  My bag was from Trader Joes and is 10 minute farro which makes eating this not only yummy, but quick and easy!

A handful of sliced almonds got scattered in a hot skillet to toast them a bit and I grated a bit of sharp cheddar cheese.

The last thing to do was make some Buttermilk Ranch dressing.  I am not a fan of bottled ranch but homemade is another story!

Buttermilk Ranch:

  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1/4 C Mayo
  • 1 smashed garlic glove
  • a handful of parsley chopped up (you could really use any fresh herb on hand that you like)
  • S&P

Whisk that and you are set.

OK— assembly time!  Grab that bowl with the spinach and cabbage in it. Put a generous spoonful of farro on next. A couple good portions of the roasted veggies are next in line.  Top off with a little shredded cheese and some almonds.  A ladle of your Buttermilk Ranch Dressing tops it off.

You have heaven in a bowl.

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This was really good and was packed with the food groups and nutrition.  It was awesome!  More are coming in the next days as I combine some other things from my pantry in a one bowl meal.

Happy Unleashing (in your kitchen),

FG

 

 

More Gardening- Just Do It!

Me in the TruckOne gardening season is coming to a close and I really just wanted to keep it going.  Then after tapping into books by Elliot Coleman and others, I see that it doesn’t have to end. But being a novice, I am not even sure what all this means– seems I can extend the season or over winter garden or use cold frames or frost blankets or plant stuff now for spring.

Well, I don’t really know about all these things, but then again I knew nothing in the spring either when we started gardening either, so once again I am just going to for it!  And that means, I am reading as much as I can, calling people with questions but bottom line is I am JUST DOING IT and we will see what happens.

Two of the summer beds are almost completely cleaned up now.  But the peppers…oh the peppers.  Most are pulled up but there are 6 that are still producing.  Some of these will hit the dehydrator.

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The basil is beautiful.  One plant is pulled and dehydrator.  The others will continue to dress our meals until I pull them right before frost and make a bunch of pesto to freeze.DSCN3490

We picked our last tomatoes this weekend and ate the last yesterday (except for the canned ones). It was bittersweet eating the last of them.  They were still so so yummy.  I do not believe I will be able to do grocery store tomatoes during the winter.  I will just wait until I can pick them again next summer.  There was nothing like it!

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The little yellow pear tomatoes just kept on going even after pulled for compost!  So I sat on the ground for a bit and picked out the flawless little guys.  They are still so yummy.  Who knew they would just keep on going even after pulled and tossed aside.

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Bed 3 still has some carrots in it.  They are yellow and red and orange and so, so pretty.  I fixed them for my mom and dad this weekend and they were amazed at the colors.  They tasted incredible too!  Bed 3 also has some late summer things in it that I planted in August.  Lettuce, spinach, kale, collards.  Those are looking good right now and we have started to eat from this bed again.

The other bed (#2) still has pumpkins which are about ready to come off.  These two beds will get cover crop.  It is a mix of seeds that will help condition our soil which we are in need of since we are the first to work this land. I love that I did not even know what the term cover crop was 6 months ago and now I am buying it and planting it!

SO, we need more!  More garden beds!

We prepped 5 new beds for fall, winter, next spring… for whatever.  They are now prepped and ready to go. Beds 4 & 5 were planted about a month ago.  Spinach, Corn Salad and Kale  are in there.  They are smaller than the others as they are 7×12 but perfect for these greens. The little plants here are about 2 -3 inches now. They are looking happy growing in these brand new beds.

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We really want to expand our tomatoes next year and try corn and give the squash some more room.  So with that in mind we prepped 3 more beds.  One bed which is 25 x 33 is done and is planted with cover crop.  This will help prepped the soil for the tomatoes in the spring.  The bed is also in mostly sunshine and I think that will be good for the tomatoes as well.  I am also trying to rotate stuff since I understand that is good for the soil. The others are fairly large also and have arugula, onions, spinach,  and fava beans.

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I planted some garlic also, following MJF great instructions. We use so much garlic, I am excited to have our own next year.  I planted 40 cloves.  It is now covered with straw like a little hiding present.  I can’t wait to uncover it next year to see what I have in there!

I love, love, love Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Their catalog is more than a means to purchase seeds.  There is so much info about the seeds, varieties and planting info.  There staff is great too and has spent some time with me in helping me decipher much of what I don’t understand! So I ordered my stuff based on things that were supposed to be cold tolerant. I was so thrilled when my box came!

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I also got frost blankets.  The maternal side of me is going to love tucking my babies in at night when frost is in the forecast. 🙂

So how long will I be able to eat from my gardens?  What will come up?  What will fail?  What will be a major success?  The answer is simply “I don’t know”.  It is the same answer I had in the spring.  But there really are not failures, only learnings. I am learning a lot from the successes and challenges.

I am really thrilled to have gone for it and continued planting.  I love it so much.  It is not all about the outcome but the journey.  And that is already a success!

Happy unleashing today!