Kevin and the Beanstalk

So my Kentucky Wonders are starting to come in. I picked a handful tonight, and there's several dozen that we'll pick this week to go with dinner.

I can already tell that I've planted too many pole bean. I think I'm going to have enough for a family of four to eat at least twice a week. Some of them are not even flowering yet and we've already got 75+ beans that will be ready very soon. That's a little surprising, given all the rain we've had. When the summer heat hits, these things should be making like crazy.

Clearly, I'm going to have to get a canner. And — if you've got a summer birthday — I think I know what you're getting. πŸ™‚

First shallots

First shallots
Originally uploaded by kevindonahue.

I harvested the shallots from the October 2006 planting today. All I can say is…WOW!

I ended up with roughly 175+ shallots. They all look really great. I'm kinda surprised because – to be perfectly honest – I had no idea what I was doing when I planted these. But… with some pretty good soil they just kinda… popped!

Shallots were the one thing that I really wanted to grow in the garden. Merrin *loves* shallots and *loves* to cook with them. The practical side of me said, "Hey, we can save money!" But, the husband in me just wanted to do something that my wife could enjoy.

I got them all out tonight, separated them and then brushed them. Now they're off to dry for a few days in a 4'x8' section of the shed. And they smell DELICIOUS!

32 square feet of shallots. Who would have thunk it?!

First Garlic Harvest

First Garlic Harvest
Originally uploaded by kevindonahue.

I got 20-something really nice heads of garlic from my first garlic planting in October 2006. (before)

I posted a close up shot of one of the medium heads so you could get a feel for their size. Most are about the diameter of a coke can or bigger. AWESOME!

This was the first bulb plant that I ever tried in the garden and I am really, really, really happy with how they turned out. And they just smell delicious!!!!

All that's left is to clean then, dry them and enjoy!

Garden Update

After 10" of rain in the past week, I was a little nervous about what I might find in the garden this weekend, but… I was pleasantly surprised. πŸ™‚ I've posted some photo updates on Flickr, but will spare my dial-up friends the bandwidth here.

We are starting to get zucchini flowers on my two zuke plants. That's a good sign. Looks like we'll have more than enough to grill very soon. Bed #1 also has some Big Burger Tomato hybrids that I put in as transplants. Two are doing well, the others didn't make at all. I'll be freeing up that space and looking to try something different.

In Bed #2, the basil is doing it's thing. I'm really surprised that the thyme that we planted way, way back when is still going strong. Merrin uses that a lot. The chives are doing great and I have thinned out the cilantro that I planted from seed. I think we'll end up with 8-10 cilantro plants, which is just right for my big salsa plans!

Bed #3 is on auto-pilot. The sage is great. The peppermint, rosemary, red bell peppers, and oregano are doing great. The italian parsley plants are just going nuts. Merrin cuts those back about every two days. They survived the winter and have just been nuts this year.

Bed #4 is just about ready for harvest. Both the garlic and the shallots are starting to fall, so we'll be pulling those out to dry right before we go to the Bahamas next weekend. I have already tested my drying skills on some shallot bulbs and they came out perfect. Looks like we'll have about 100+ shallot bulbs, so the "best of the best of the best" will end up going back into the garden as bulbs this year.

Bed #5 has my great looking Fresh Salsa Tomato hybrids and the Mariachi hot peppers, plus a little garlic. The peppers and tomatoes look fantastic, with the 'maters getting a good 5"-6" growth in the last two weeks. There is a little space at the end of that bed that I will reclaim, as some of this spring's garlic is not going to make.

Bed #6 is a lot of fun. Those Kentucky Wonder beans are just shooting right up. I'm using a string net instead of traditional pole/string for these pole beans. So far, so good. They're jumping right on the netting and climbing up. This system – if it works for me – will let me grow 50-75 plants in the space that I would have used for 30 or so. My first impression is that we're going to be learning how to can beans very soon. Those of you celebrating fall birthdays/anniversaries/Christmas/etc, you'll be getting beans this year. πŸ™‚

Bed #7 is out by the shed. It's the spring shallots and garlic. Some of the garlic just isn't making. That's frustrating. Merrin uses a lot of garlic to cook with and I really wanted to give her 8lbs or more. It doesn't look like that's going to happen. We were worried about these bulbs when we got them because they seemed very dry. I'll know better next time. On the other hand, the shallot bulbs are really going well in that bed, so we'll have even more shallots this fall!

That's about all for now. I've got to look into some spring/summer planting because we're going to have about a bed & a half come open late this month. I'll take some pics when we "harvest"!!!

First Sunburn of the Year

Well, it's March 11th and I've got my first sunburn – that didn't take long. πŸ˜‰

I started in the yard this morning around 10a and finished up around dinner. I got the lawn mowed, edged, etc. Then, I leveled a 9' x 3' strip in the backyard for new garden beds. (I never expected that to be the intense project that it was!)

With the leveling finished, I laid garden fabric, cut cedar for two new planters and put those together. I went ahead and added a rock walkway to match the rest of the garden. Afterwards, I loaded those planters with organic soil so they'll be ready for my plants this week.

I really didn't expect to work that hard today, but it was such a pretty day, I just kept going. Kinda like when Forrest Gump went for a run and ended up running for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours, right?!

Once I get the garden planted, I'll update my garden set on Flickr.

Long story short – very tired, very sore and *very* sunburned. πŸ™‚

UPDATE: I just checked and… no, we don't have any elephant lube.

Note to self: Get some elephant lube.

Garden Update: Organic Soil

My efforts to reinvigorate my soil through direct composting seems to be working, although I'm pretty lean in most of the planter boxes. To supplement my soil, I'm going to be adding Miracle-Gro Organic – an oxymoron if ever there was one – as well as Black Kow composted manure. I'm a little worried that I'll be nitrogen heavy, so I guess we'll have to watch the mix and test the soil a few times this spring.

I'm now giving some thought to adding a butterfly garden to the perimeter of my garden beds. Of course, the way the wind is out here sometimes, they might not stick around long!

I really want to thank Josh for helping me get started last year and for turning me on to a new hobby that I really enjoy. He's beaten me to the punch on some plantings, but it looks like we're both going to have nice gardens this year (although his garden is about 40 times bigger!)

It's almost time for spring planting

I spent the morning working on my garden beds and getting them ready for spring planting. I'm direct composting my beds so as to continue my mostly organic gardening. (I have to say that I'm getting interested in going 100% organic, whereas I'm about 80% right now.) I'll let the soil aerate and then add more compost this week before I top dress the beds.

As far as spring goes, I'm definitely doing a salsa garden – so cilantro, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and the like. That will allow me to experiment with my own salsa recipes this summer.

I already have one full bed with garlic and shallots. Those October bulbs should be ready to harvest around the first of May. In the meantime, I'll probably go with a second, slightly smaller shallot planting to get us through the summer. I plan to save a number of my bulbs to replant shallots in the fall. (Shallots are a year-round request item from Chef Merrin.)

I know I'm doing two varieties of tomatoes – one for salsa/bruschetta and one for more traditional uses (ie hamburgers and salads). I think I will also do cucumbers for our nightly salads. I know we're going to do a few zuccinis, too, but we learned our lesson last year with the 10 trillion zukes we had! Merrin will also want her herbs, so we'll do a complete kitchen essentials herb garden, too.

Given my limited space, I almost have a mind to go vertical – perhaps adding some pole beans to climb with the cucumbers and such. Not sure on that one just yet, though. I still have to review with Merrin. I need to keep her stocked with fresh veggies for all those delicious dinners!

I think I'm going to run out of space before I get to the end of my list! Wouldn't that be a surprise!