Friday, May 27, 2011

Ambitions and Abundance

In addition to this blog, I keep an "old fashioned" garden journal - one I write in just about every weekend.  I usually start writing in January - listing out the new seeds or plants I want to try - and wrap it up in October with the "most successful" list for that garden season.

This year my January wish-list was huge and I quickly realized that I would need way more land than what our small, urban backyard could supply.  I needed to scale back the list and get realistic as to what I could grow successfully (like 14 types of tomatoes that resulted in more than 50 tomato starts!).

We have four 8' x 4' raised beds and one 16' x 3 bed; a couple of smaller herb/flower beds and a perennial flower bed (which keeps getting smaller and smaller as the number of raised beds grow).  I got 18 tomato plants in the ground last weekend -- all those that I can accommodate - and that spurred me to take inventory of the edibles that are currently "in the ground."

Tomatoes (14 types), potatoes (3 types), grapes (2 types), arugula, lettuce (3 types), radishes (3 types), basil (4 types), sage, thyme, cilantro, chives, oregano, rosemary, garlic, fennel, purslane, spinach (already harvested), cress, chard, beets (2 types), carrots (4 types), onions (3 types), shallots, peas, peppers (2 types) and strawberries. 
Early Radishes

Still to plant:  bush beans (4 types), cucumbers (2 types) and squash (2 types). 
I was amazed at the list.  I am amazed at my ambition and the pending abundance. It's a good thing I cut down my wish-list in January.  Maybe the 2nd St. Chicken Ranch needs to start its own CSA!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time to Plant Those Tomatoes

It's been another cool, wet spring in north Idaho, but I think we are finally out of frost danger.  The 50+ tomato plants that I started in early March have been hardening off in the covered hoop bed for about two weeks.  We've been monitoring the overnight temperatures pretty closely with the help of a thermometer with a remote sensor and this has worked really well. 

When the temp is going to dip below 40 at night we cover the plastic with another "blanket" -- a heavier, blue tarp.  This has helped, along with the few sunny and 70 days we've had so far this year.

I have to admit, the starts look great and I'm calling the "starting tomatoes from seeds" a big success this year.  Now on to the next step - getting them into the ground.  We have two beds dedicated to tomatoes and this year I am trying something new.  Instead of the traditional tomato cages for support, we are going to try the cattle panel idea.   

We purchased a 16 foot section of cattle panel - we'll put an 8 foot section into each bed.  I'm still researching the best planting scheme.  Some people have put the panel down the center and staggered 3 or 4 plants on either side.  Another placed the panel about 1/3 into the bed and planted 7 on one side, allowing for a row or two of other crops in the same bed.  Either way, I'm not going to get 50 plants in! 

Stay tuned -- I'll post photos and the final outcome later this week!

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Chicks on the Block

Madge and Helen check out the new neighbors.
Our new girls have settled nicely into their brand new, one bedroom, starter home. It's pretty exciting to move into a new house and get to know the new neighbors -- especially when the old biddies next door are the "mother hen" to speak. 
After much discussion on the type of pen we were going to build, Hal and I settled on a pre-made "chick-n-pen" from the farm store. It fits perfectly on the mini coop and provides enough space for the chicks to roam around.  A leftover piece of fiberboard (which already matched the paint) was added to keep the rain at bay.  

These are temporary digs for our chicks, who are now 7 weeks old.  My goal is to have a combined flock living under one coop/roof by week 16 (mid-July).  My integration strategy includes a couple of "meet and greets" inside the confines of a large, plastic-fenced pen.  All that tasty, green grass will surely provide a distraction for the big least for a few minutes. 

Given our past experience with flock integration, I'm hoping these backyard play dates make the transition easier for everyone -- especially those of us without wings and beaks.   

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco de Mayo Pesto

The May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit has a great recipe for Chive Pesto.  In addition to chives it also calls for parsley.  Since I'm not a big fan of this herb, I decided to try it with cilantro.  With a couple of ingredient swaps (lime for lemon and a dash of hot sauce) you have Cinco de Mayo Chive Pesto! 

It's a super easy and delicious way to use those spring fresh, onion-y chives growing in your garden.

1/2 cup chopped chives (packed)
1/2 cup cilantro (packed)
2 Tbs pine nuts (more authentic Mexican would be pepitas/pumpkin seeds)
1 clove garlic
2 Tsp fresh lime juice
Dash of bottled hot sauce (to taste)
1/2 cup olive oil

In a food processor add chives, cilantro, nuts and garlic.  Pulse until chopped. With machine running, stream in olive oil until combined.  Whirl in lime juice and hot sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is great on grilled fish, chicken or veggies and, as the original stated, great on roasted potatoes too.   Delicioso!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Sure Sign of Spring -- Farmer's Market!

This Saturday, May 7th, the 2011 Kootenai County Farmer's Market season opens!  Come rain (probably) or shine (hopefully) the vendors will be there with a fantastic assortment of flower, herb and veg plants, fun art, yummy eats and great music! 

The Saturday market is located at the corner of Hwy 95 and Prairie Ave., and runs from 9 am to 1:30 pm.  A Wednesday market is held in downtown Coeur d'Alene at Sherman Ave. and 5th, from 4 to 7 pm.

We never miss "opening day" and this year is no exception. Even though I have 50+ of my own tomato starts (and could be a vendor!!), I will be searching out a Sun Gold Cherry, Juliet, and a Black Prince.  Two of my favorite vendors are Killarney Farms from Cataldo, ID (nice variety of tomato plants and greens) and the Idaho Tomato Lady / Mountain View Farm, from Hayden, ID. 

If you go and succumb to the temptation of purchasing tender annuals (like tomatoes, peppers, basil) make sure you keep them in the garage or sheltered area.  It's still too chilly to put them in the ground!  Last average day of frost is May 15 for this area.  I usually try to get my tomatoes in by the May 20th - but let Mother Nature (and your soil's temperature) be your guide.

Here's to Farmers' Markets, joy they bring to welcome Spring!
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