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Lotsa Lettuce

March 16th, 2015

I’m a sucker for lettuce seeds. When I read through the descriptions and see the beautiful images in the seed catalogs I go a little overboard. I do like a lot of variety in my salad bowl and find that five or six types of lettuce makes for a great salad.
Lettuce seedlings
I have found that lettuce seeds are often best to be purchased fresh each year. I used to keep them for a few years, but germination is so much faster and so many more seeds germinate when the seeds are really fresh. Now all of my leftover seed from the year gets thrown into planters in the fall that get overwintered in the basement. Then I have a nice crop of mesclun for salads in the early winter months.
lettuce 1
On Saturday I started a flat of lettuces & endive, there are 15 varieties in all that were started this go around. There are also three other varieties in planters in the basement…..and I have another 15 that are later season varieties that will replace these when the weather warms up a bit. Then I have another 10-15 varieties that will be grown in the fall/winter. Butterheads are my favorite types of lettuce, with romaine coming in a close second. Leaf lettuce are probably my least favorite. I like a lot of crunch and texture in my lettuce. Endive and other bitter greens are also always in my salad bowl, nothing rounds out sweet greens like a bit a bitterness!

What’s your favorite kind of lettuce to grow?

Starting Lettuce

February 19th, 2015

Usually I have a few planters of lettuce and greens going in the winter, this year I never got around to starting them. The day before yesterday I finally got a few seeds into a planter. I love this mix from Renee’s Garden, it produces very nicely in my long narrow planter boxes. They lettuce does very well now that the days are getting longer and we’re getting almost 12 hours of light.
Renees garden lettuce
I’ve always grown a small amount of greens during the winter. It’s worth the fun in my book, even if there isn’t that much of a harvest.
lettuce 2
lettuce in pot
In a month and a half or so I should be eating delicious homegrown lettuce. While I long to have a greenhouse for winter growing, until I do I’ll be grown herbs and greens in planter boxes tucked in front of every south facing window we have. Here’s to homegrown lettuce while there’s still snow on the ground!

Do you have any edibles growing on your windowsills?

Curing Winter Squash

February 11th, 2015

Several of you asked yesterday about how to cure winter squash so it would store for many months. First off you need to start with the right kind of squash. Different varieties of squash will store for different lengths of time. In general acorn, delicata and spaghetti squash will store for a few weeks to a month, winter squash and pumpkin will store for 4-6 months, butternuts will store the longest up to a year. I have stored squash for 18 months with success. In fact I cooked a pumpkin from last year just before I harvested my crop from this past season.
squash harvest 5
Squash must be cured if you want them to last a long time in storage. It’s fairly simple, just store them unwashed in a warm sunny place for 2 weeks. A greenhouse works well, as does a warm back porch. I like to put mine on the back porch which gets the afternoon sun and stays nice and warm.
squash harvest 1
Store squash in a cool area of the house, generally between 50-60 degrees works best. Squash are not like potatoes, apples, and other vegetables, they appreciate warmth. Make sure they have good air movement. My squash are often laid out in a corner of a cool bedroom and they store very nicely. I have also simply kept them in a corner of the dining room.
stack of pumpkins
There are a few other things you can do to ensure your winter squash will store for ages.

First, make sure they are ripe at harvest. They have a long growing season, select varieties that will ripen in the amount of time you have. Those of us that live in shorter season areas should select shorter season squash. Most seed companies will give you length till harvest, use these as a guide. Allow the vines to start to die and the skins to toughen before harvesting.

Second, cut, don’t rip the squash from the vines. You want to leave a nice piece of stem on the squash to help protect them. Avoid carrying your squash by the stem to make sure they remain attached.

Third, harvest squash before frost. Squash that has been left in the garden during a frost will not store as long as those harvested earlier.

Fourth, do not water or manure too much. Squash that was overwatered or over fertilized will not store as long. Feed and water them, but don’t get carried away. It’s better to have smaller squash that store longer.

pumpkin-in-the-oven
There you have it, a few tips to keep your winter squash fresh in the pantry all winter long.

Do you have any tips to share on growing, curing, and storing winter squash?

The Last Harvest

December 29th, 2014

Cold weather arrived before I was quite ready for it at least two months ago. My hopes of harvesting my leeks before the ground froze were dashed. But then we had a nice warmup this week. As a result I spent this weekend working in the garden.
Leeks and sunchokes 2
I dug a mess of leeks that will be cleaning, chopped, cooked, and eaten. Luckily there are a few delicious recipes features in my copy of Tender. Most of them feature potatoes, which I have a root cellar full of so I’m in business.
Leeks and sunchokes 1
Another recipe calls for Jerusalem Artichokes, which I also harvested a mess of yesterday. I’ve grown this vegetable for many years but I’ve never harvested many of them to eat. I just let them multiply and replant them since I started with only two tubers. They’ve grown into quite a nice little patch, I was amazed at how productive they are.
Leeks and sunchokes 3
It’s no wonder many people keep a patch in the garden for insurance purposes in case the economy goes south. I’ve also heard that some folks keep a nice plot going to feed the pigs come fall. My pigs wouldn’t eat the tubers this year, but I’m guessing if they got hungry enough they would.
Leeks and sunchokes 4
I’m certain this will be my last harvest of 2014, at least it should be. The weather is supposed to turn very cold this week and the ground should finally freeze. Hopefully I will be able to get out today to plant my elephant garlic so I can enjoy it’s beautiful blooms next summer!

Are you harvesting anything from your garden right now?

Flower Sprouts

December 18th, 2014

This past Friday I got some Flower Sprouts at the local farmers market. These are new to me, I’ve heard of them and seen them in seed catalogs but I’ve never seen them before. They are a cross between brussels sprouts and kale and that’s exactly what they look and taste like.
Flower Sprouts 1
I settled on making them just like I make broccoli salad. Warm bacon, red onions, mustard, walnuts, dried cranberries red wine vinegar, yogurt, olive oil, and splash of maple syrup and they were perfect for dinner!
Flower Sprouts 2
I hope these are at the market all winter because they were great. They won’t appear in my garden, I don’t usually have much luck with brussels sprouts or the longer season brassicas. I’m happy to simply buy them from a local farm. If you’re interested in adding them to your garden next year you can buy seeds from Johnny’s Seeds.

Have you had any new vegetables lately?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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