Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Strawberry Patch - One row at a time

Last fall we cleaned up the strawberry patch quite well – weeding and transplanted runners. I think we increased the patch by two rows with the runners and even had runners to spare that ended up – sadly in the compost pile. Before we got our first hard frost, my sister Jennifer put them to bed for the winter by covering them with piles of straw so they would survive our cold Idaho winter weather. Although strawberries are hardy and relatively low maintenance, they require some special attention in the spring and in the fall. 

I haven't had time to work in the berry patch much this spring, therefore I have left the straw covering the plants even though we've had some warm days. As you can see, green berry plants are peaking out for sunshine and fresh air. We still have a risk of frost until mid-May so I'm not in a huge hurry, but it's slow going. I'm tackling about two rows each evening.  

Cleaning up is is simply a matter of pulling back the straw and pulling out and off any dead berry plant leaves and runners. I even spotted several early blooms, so berries are on their way. 

Although he isn't much help, Ben keeps me company - as always.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A is for Asparagus

Our asparagus patch is three years old this spring. This means we will finally have a decent harvest and last night we enjoyed our first meal with home-grown fresh asparagus. It was definitely worth the wait. 

Asparagus spears will start to emerge when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F. After this, growth of asparagus is dependent on air temperature. Early in the season, 7 to 9-inch spears might be harvested every 2 to 4 days. As air temperatures increase, harvesting frequencies will increase to once or twice per day, harvesting 5 to 7 inch spears before the tips start to fern out and lose quality. 

The duration of the harvest depends on the vigor of the plants. Since these plants are young, the fresh asparagus season may last a couple of weeks. However, established plants can produce much longer, as much as 8 weeks. The old rule of thumb is to harvest until the diameter of the spear decreases to the size of a pencil. Then it is time to stop and let them grow, gaining strength for next spring. After harvest, we'll allow the ferns to grow; this replenishes the nutrients for next year's spear production.

The first picking was especially delicious - lightly steamed with butter! We are looking forward to trying out every recipe I have on hand, plus a few jars of pickled asparagus for holiday Bloody Mary's.  


Monday, March 24, 2014

Plant my peas please!

My sister Jenny planted my peas over the weekend. They simply could not soak for one more day. Thank you Jenny, you are welcome to as many peas as you can pick and eat.  It is great to have a garden buddy. 

In 60 to 70 days we will have Oregon Giant Snow Peas, Early Frost Peas and Sugar Snap peas climbing up the ranch wire between these fence posts. When the peas are finished, in about 65 days, we'll plant the Armenian cucumbers and let them do some climbing.  

Later in the summer, we'll see this ranch wire covered with vines and beautiful Armenian cucumbers. 

~Purple Brussels Sprout transplant ~

There is a chance of frost here in Idaho until about the middle of May, so I'm covering many of my cole crops and spring greens with my plastic hoops and frost blankets, depending on the nighttime temperature. I could not resist picking up a couple of packs of Brussels sprouts. The aphids did them in last year, but I wanted to give them one more try and by getting them in early, maybe I'll have better luck. The Franklin Brussels Sprouts take 80 days to maturity, are supposed to be disease resistant and exposure to a few frosts will enhance the flavor of the sprouts. I planted them between wintered Savoy cabbage that should be ready to eat next month. This will give them room to sprawl out and thrive. 

The purple Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, can take 100 days to maturity and may not survive the heat of summer. Stay tuned to my experiment with Brussels sprout!