Monday, April 25, 2011

Wow, can salad greens really be this beautiful?

The photos just can't do it justice: the elongating stem of the Swiss Chard looks exactly like beautiful art glass.  I never have seen anything like it!  You should know that all of my prior attempts to grow chard failed.  Miserably.  This year I put the plants in in mid-fall, and have been harvesting all spring.  Now the plants are huge, each leaf blade (not counting the stalk!) measuring 18 inches.  The fact that some of the chard stems are elongating so rapidly into these beautiful art glass vases makes me think that soon the plants will go to seed for the year.  But, see the new leaves growing at the base of each old, harvested stalk?  Maybe I will snap off the tops of the plants that are shooting up, and see how much secondary growth I get.  But, not yet.  They are too beautiful!

The chard leaves are tender and soft; one huge leaf makes an amazing salad for two when I add a few lettuce leaves from the next garden bed over.  So, although not nearly as flashy, I also have added a photo of a row of mixed salad greens. (And, yes, that is a tomato plant in the same row.   It will take over when the lettuces are done in by the heat.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's time!

Although we are still having some cool nights, and our days jump back and forth from warm to cool, history tells us that we have probably had our last frost for the year here at the coast.  Most years that means it is time to plant most of our warm season vegetables, from beans to tomatoes.  This year the soil remains quite cool, but I just couldn't wait any longer.  I have tomato plants in the ground, unprotected, and smaller cayenne pepper plants right next to them, protected by individual milk jug greenhouses.  I planned to plant bush beans this past weekend, but never got to it, so those go in later this week.

You can see from the photo that some of my tomatoes are mixed in with my young lettuces.  I figure by the time the tomatoes put on some size the lettuce with either be done for the year or will need the shade.   (I planted 5 tomato plants, one each of four varieties I have never grown before: African Queen, Goldman's Italian, and two whose names I can't remember, plus one sungold cherry tomato).   The next photo shows two of the tomato plants beside the covered peppers.  Note the rod that holds the four milk jugs together, and keeps them from blowing out of the garden.

You also can see that my earliest blueberry (sorry, I lost all the tags on their third move around the yard, so I don't know what variety it is) is all set, with berries getting ready to start ripening.  The final photo is the amazing lettuce from last fall, against a backdrop of this spring's sugar snap peas.  I love the spring garden, but have to admit my garden was put to shame by one I visited yesterday.  Every vegetable in it was spectacular; they were harvesting big, perfect lettuces, spinach, broccoli, peas from a fall planting!, turnips, and more.  I was inspired, and will give my garden a good talking to.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Parsley and Isadora

We added a new hive of bees to the apiary this weekend:  3 lbs. of workers (all female bees), a couple of drones, and Queen Isadora!  The bees came in the wood and screen box that you see on the ground in front of the hive, with Isadora protected in a small queen cage inside.  They now are all in an 8 frame deep brood box, building comb using the sugar syrup I gave them to help them get over the shock of moving along with nectar from the thousands of flowers blooming all over the island right now.  Wish them luck!

The bees were not the only work this weekend.  The amazing flat leaf parsley that grows under the blueberries was getting ready to go to seed.  You can tell this is coming when the plant begins to put out a thick, elongated, central stem - this will be the seed stalk.  So, I went to work, harvesting all the fresh smelling, dark green leaves from around the stem, leaving it to go to seed to start next year's parsley plants!  Here you see the beautiful parsley, the stems left behind, and the pile of leaves only that I clipped off the stems, rinsed, and and now preparing to dry.  I love the smell of fresh parsley!