Tag Archives: Spinach

Mini Greenhouse: Using Roofing Panels to Warm the Soil

Using Fiberglass Roofing Panels to Create a Mini Greenhouse, Extend the Season or Warm the Soil

A few weeks back we had a spell of warmer weather and I waited till the end of it to attempt a sowing of pole beans. A couple weeks after the fact I decided to look for the seed as nothing was coming up. I dug around and found…nothing. The soil didn’t look disturbed so I’m not thinking it was birds. I’m guessing it was just too cool and wet and the seed rotted. When the weather gods predicted another bout of warm weather I was on it. It occurred to me that I could possibly get a jump on sowing if I could warm the soil. Remembering a mini greenhouse I used in gardens past I made a trip to the lumber yard and came home with an 8′ long roofing panel. Once upon a time these used to be made out of fiberglass and perhaps you can still find them but any I’ve found locally have been PVC or ‘polycarbonate’. I’m hoping they will work as well (and last as long) as the fiberglass panels used to. I’ve used them to extend either end of the growing season when just a few degrees can make all the difference. My hope in using them this time is that they will help to warm the soil a few degrees so that the bush beans I plan to plant there will have a better shot at germinating should the weather cool again (a very real possibility around here).

Shopping List

  • 1 clear or semi clear roofing panel. 26″ wide and the length of your choice. Mine was 8′ long
  • 4 1″x2″x16″ stakes per panel
  • length of wire or twine to secure the panel

Preparation and Installation

  1. Cut a 1/4″ notch into each of the stakes, a few inches from the top. This will insure that the wire or twine stays put. I cut my panel into 2 4′ sections but they can also be left whole.
  2. Once you decide where you want your panel to sit, drive two of the stakes into the ground approximately 6-12″ in from each end of one side of the panel.
    Drive two more stakes in 12″ from the first two. If two panels are being installed next to each other you can use 2 less stakes as the middle stakes can secure both panels (see image).
  3. Gently fold the panel into an upside down U shape and set it between the two stakes.
  4. Tie string or wire, crossing over the panels. Thats all there is to it!

Garden Happenings

Harvest

2 large bags filled with lettuce, kale and spinach
The Palco spinach is showing signs that it is about to bolt which necessitated harvesting that 1′ wide bed. Since I wanted the space on either side of it I decided to harvest one of the beds of the Mild Mesclun mix that was ready. I also harvested the rest of the red and butter lettuce from the bed next to the peas. I ended up with two large bags of green goodness, one filled with lettuce and the other with spinach and kale. Way more than we will ever eat I decided to fill some 1 gallon bags for the local food bank. I ended up getting 8 1 gallon bags in total. 3 spinach, 2 kale and 4 lettuce. 8 to go to Helpline and 1 bag of spinach for us.

Sowing

It may be too warm but I sowed two short rows of Renee’s Farmer’s Market Blend lettuce in the shade of the peas.

On the balcony I started a pot of SMR-58 cukes, Astia zucchini and another attempt at “Italian Pesto basil. ALL of the batch I started inside this spring ended up dying. Not sure if it was a rot or ? Need to investigate that.

Long Division and the Great Potato Experiment of 2016

My garden is exactly 10’x20′ in size, 2 plots in the local community garden.  Each bed in  the garden is about 10’x50′-60′ (Can’t remember which it is now but you get the idea.) and contains 5 or 6 10′ long plots.  The long sides of most of the beds are walled in with 2″x12″ boards and the ends are open.  My 10×20 is a fraction of the approx 40’x60′ garden I left in Southern Kentucky but plenty for my wants, needs and amount of free time.  The small size means every square inch counts and that I have to be selective about who gets a spot to put down roots.  Each individual gardener has the ability to amend our spots to our hearts content and as such, some plots end up being taller than the plot next door. This means that 6-8″ on the end of the taller plot is pretty much unusable as water just runs off to the lower beds.  This happens again at the end of the bed where my plot is. This year some of the gardeners have added divider boards and end boards to their plots.  By capping it off on either end that last 6-8″ is usable.  Anita was nice enough to pick up a couple of boards for me as our car is too small to carry much of anything over 6′ long.  It was raining when I arrived at the garden this morning.  Not a hard rain but the gentle rain so common in our area.  Historically I would not garden in the rain but I only get two days off every week and I have to take the time I get.  It didn’t take long to trench out the area for the boards using the narrow hoe.  After all was said and done I figure I’ve gained about 10 square feet at 6″ x 10′ x 2 sides.   I pulled some of the volunteer nasturtiums that were growing in the walkway and tucked them in along the inside of the middle board.  They will look nice spilling over the board later this summer.

The potatoes I planted 41 days ago in 8″ deep trenches are looking AWESOME! The trenches have been filled as the plants grew and they are looking very lush. That being said, if I had it to do over I would have planted them in large containers like the guy over at the Allotment Diary in the UK.  I stumbled upon his video about growing potatoes in containers and will definitely go that route next year if I grow them again. The growing part isn’t what makes containers great, it is the harvesting part. From what I’ve read and been told, harvesting potatoes without cutting into some of them and/or leaving some behind to sprout next year is problematic.  Dan, Mr Allotment Gardener, plants potatoes deep in containers, the way I did in the trenches, filling with compost as they grow. The containers are partially buried in the garden early on so the roots can grow though into the soil below for nutrients and moisture leaving the potatoes to develop in the containers.  Harvesting consists of dumping the entire container onto a tarp and fishing out the little bundles of starchy goodness.  His most recent video shows him harvesting new potatoes from plants in small pots he started 2 months ago. A much easier task when they are grown in containers. If you have any interest in potato growing check him out. I think the environment in his part of the UK is similar to ours here in the PNW.

greens

In other happenings, The lettuce is LOVING the wet and cool weather we have been having. Today after getting the boards in, I harvested red, green and oak leaf lettuce as well as a mess of some mixed kale like greens. The Palco spinach is ready to go but my bag was full. Perhaps tomorrow. Again this year I was reminded that there is really not much to gain by using lettuce transplants. The beds I direct seeded have caught up to the bed with the transplants. I should save my money but I get so impatient in the early spring and want to se SOMETHING green. I had planned to seed some zucchini this weekend but not sure it will like the 50+ degree days we’ve been having. I suppose I could start it under lights inside. There isn’t much of a rush though as I’m not really sure where I’ll stick it yet. I had originally thought it would go where the kale was but I put the chard there. Decisions…decisions.

Spring has Sprung

Last year was so hot, watering was pretty much a daily event in the raised beds and Rockfarm. This year many of us are adding some peat moss in hopes of a bit more water retention on those hot days. Hopefully it won’t retain too much water if we have a wetter growing season.

Impatient for some lettuce, I picked up a couple of packs of lettuce from the local garden supply. I opted for a variety of red, green and speckeled. In addition to the lettuce I picked up a 4″ pot of Sorrell. It has a nice lemony flavor and the young leaves are a great addition to salad. Its a perennial so it will be around for some time…I hope.

A half row of peas went in on the end where the garlic was last year. Some folks are adding boards at the end of their plots to hold the soil in. I think I will too.

The spinach I planted last month doesn’t seem to be doing much so I put in another 1’x5′ section of Palco. This variety didn’t bolt as soon as bloomsdale did last year. The leaves are larger and paler than Bloomsdale. They stay tender and tasty even when they get large.

Potatoes were never something I could grow in Kentucky without using boatloads of poison. The colorado potato beetle decimated the crop both years I attempted to grow them. I even tried the Bt that was supposed to work on CPB to no avail. Now this was a number of years back so perhaps things have improved since then. Here at Rockfarm in WA the potatoes I’ve seen growing seem to be doing fabulous so I thought I’d give them another shot. I opted for some Russian Banana fingerling potatoes. I decided to dig a couple of ditches, plant them deep and replace the soil from the trench as they grow. Since potatoes are formed along the stems planting them deep is the way to go.

I ended up pulling the Roquette. It was too bitter for my liking. As with the greens from last year I dug it into the soil and will plant over it later.

The cutting lettuce and mesclun blend I planted last month are coming up nicely. We had a couple of hard rains not long after I seeded the two 1’x5′ beds and I was worried the seed would all be washed to one side of the bed. It appears there was a little condensing of the bed but not too much.

The overwintering kale has shot up and will be ready for a picking soon. This year I want to get it out sooner. Last year I let it go to flower in hopes of getting more leaves and all I ended up with was more flowers. :-/

As expected the Arugula has made itself at home. The few plants I put in the ground last year has reseeded into a thick mat of seedlings. I’ll have quite a harvest in the coming weeks.

Garlic Again

My day started up with a meeting at Bay Hay & Feed after church to collect a head of Inchelium I had acquired through a FB garden group. It was a fairly small head but I think this variety does tend to be on the small side. Inchelium is a soft neck local (to WA state) variety that is said to be mild enough to be eaten raw. We shall see about that. It was one I had been looking for to add to the mix this year.

Garlic occupies much time in the garden. It was only a few months ago I was harvesting and here I am planting again. I may regret all of the space I am giving to this one veggie (or is it an herb?) next year but for now I am feeling good about it. I ended up forgetting the head of Music the fellow gardener shared with me. I’ll end up putting that one in early next month. For now I have two short (4-5′) rows each of Turkish Giant (hard neck, beautifully purple striped huge heads), Inchelium (softneck mild a long keeper), Lorz Italian (an artichoke type of hard neck garlic), Silver White (softneck, another long keeper with huge heads). I also planted 9 of the largest potato onions from the recent harvest.

As for greens, I planted a mixed salad greens packet (Gourmet Blend) from Ed Hume, a packet of Roquette and some Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach.

Downtime

September came and went without much going on garden wise. The temps cooled and the rains made a regular showing. Fred kept creeping along to the point of needing his own zip code. Helda kept putting out beans like crazy, more clubroot was found in the broccoli planted this spring and the zucchini kept getting larger and larger as the number of visits per week declined. One a positive note, large zucchini can be treated like eggplant (bake the slices instead of frying them) and made into a wonderful zucchini parmesan.

The milder temps were not soon enough for the spinach tho. It all bolted and ended up being dug into the garden to help enrich the soil. That is new for me. Typically garden refuse would go into the compost pile. This year I made trenches and dug it back into the garden. Everything went in except the brassicas (clubroot) and anything with seeds like the few large cucumbers I ended up missing over the summer. The lettuce I planted at about the same time also bolted. I cut it off at the ground level to see if there would be any chance of getting anything decent once the temps cooled. Doubtful but worth a try.

figlets2015-09-13 All of the three fig cuttings I started last Spring have figlets and are about a foot tall. I started with a bag of dormant 6″ long cuttings from the Brown Turkey and Petite Nigra container plants a dear friend adopted. Looking at these I’m thinking they are all BT. This is fine as I do prefer their flavor over PN.

The second round of carrots I planted ended up with little holes through most of them. A root maggot of some kind. Need to research that one. I’m thinking a floating row cover would be a good idea next time.

The Iditarod tomatoes took forever to start producing but once they did were pretty consistant and had a good flavor. The Celebrities were gone at about the time they started so we have had a good run of tomatoes from the two plants on the balcony.

The horseradish I planted in a clay pot and buried is HUGE. While I did have a horseradish plant I had never harvested any of it so that will be new for me. I know it is one whose ability to regrow from the smallest piece of root left behind. For this reason it was planted in a clay pot and buried. It remains to be seen whether or not that will work. There is, after all, a drainage hole at the bottom.

Lessons learned: 1. Wait to plant spinach and lettuce for fall. Mid July was much too early.

Keeping Track

Spinach

Every year I promise myself to keep better records than the year before and every year’s end I look back and realize I was nowhere near as consistent as I had hoped. Not sure when I planted the lettuce in the pic but it does look good.

So far I am 1 for 2 with the late spinach. The Oriental Giant is showing signs of bolting but the Palco is looking good. The days are still warm but not as crazy warm as they were earlier.

Fred

The bad news is Fred has a case of the powdery mildew. More bad for how he looks than anything. The good news is Fred has been joined by Ethel. The couple have completely taken over the walkway between the two 50′ (I think) long beds.

Frog

I saw one of these little guys last year on the broccoli in my Helpline row across the garden. They must like the cabbage worms or perhaps the few aphids I see occasionally.

Solarization

Anita is trying to beat back clubroot. According to the prevailing wisdom solarization can help to take the numbers of spores down. Hope it works. I’m going to miss brassicas.

Keeping it Cool

Bag-o-beans

The temps are still pretty warm in the garden. Even riding out every evening to water finds the young beets wilted by the time I get there. The soil just gets to warm and dries out too quickly. Remembering how well the kale branches worked to keep the soil cool for the carrots I planted last month, I headed to the lumber yard. My plan was to go through their scrap bin looking for just the right boards to protect the young beets. At some point this Summer I had tried to start another row of beets. Between the heat and the drought, only a few remain. Today I seeded some Crosby’s Egyptian beets and Scarlet Bandit bunching onions in addition to the Bull’s Blood (great name) Beet starts I picked up at the Bainbridge Gardens. I ended up finding some scrap boards but not enough for what i needed. I purchased and extra 1x4x12 and had it cut in 2′ lengths. I placed a board on either side of the seedlings and crossed my fingers.

Fred - the Volunteer Pumpkin

The Heldas are coming on strong. I ended up roasting some of the last batch, tossing in olive oil and sprinkling some Herb’N All seasoning. They were wonderful but hardly made a dent in what was in the fridge. No room left for this bag of beans so I think I’ll end up sharing these.

Sweet Corn - 2 Phil High

The blueberry patch is next to my garden plot. A volunteer pumpkin took up residence there and has spread to cover quite a large area. Only one large pumpkin is attached to the monstrosity. I’ve named him Fred. Fred is larger than than my foot and shows no sign of slowing down his growth. Hope he doesn’t shade the blueberries.

This isn’t my corn but I did plant it during one of my help sessions. It is a sweet corn whose name I cannot remember. Phil isn’t a short man, I’m guessing at least 6′ tall. This corn is about 2 Phils high.

The spinach I planted last month is going strong. Hoping it doesn’t end up bolting with these temps.
Lessons Learned: Boards and small branches do make a good cover to keep the soil cool and moist during hot and dry times.

Cleanup, New Additions, Harvest and the Case of the Missing Zucchini

Recycled mango container for starting seeds.
A mango container from Costco mangos makes a great little greenhouse for starting zucchini and cucumber. Complete with drainage and venting holes.

The zucchini I seeded a couple of weeks ago had been peeking through the ground the last time I was at the garden. Now it is gone and empty shells remain. Not sure if it was birds or the raccoon whose footprints I see in my plot on occasion. Grrrr. I’m guessing the former as the remains looked a lot like what was left when I tried starting some cucumbers in a 4″ pot on the back patio. The birds relieved me of the seed, leaving the shell behind.  Needing something to protect the seed from the birds,  I fished a mango container out of the recycle bin after a recent Costco trip. The six celled contraption complete with lid and drainage should be enough to get the zucchini and cukes started out of harms way. I think once they get up and get some serious leaves on them the birds won’t be interested. At least that is my hope.

Container Tomatoes
Container Tomatoes

I potted up the two tomato plants on the balcony. One is Iditerod, a ‘dwarf indeterminate’ whatever that means. The other is….lost the tag and have no clue. :-/ Both look great and are enjoying the new digs.

I tried a cut-and-come-again type harvest on the Palco Spinach. I was able to get 3 cups of cooked frozen spinach and enough fresh to last us for a while. It wasn’t showing any sign of bolting but the leaves were large and tender and it was time. This was my first time growing this variety. Love the flavor and lack of bolting as quickly as the Bloomsdale. I’ll grow it again.

I pulled two of the three overwintering broccoli. I needed the space for the pole beans and we weren’t able to keep up with the harvest. The one I left is located on one end of the bed, tied to the tbar and leaning out of the bed somewhat. There are a couple of shoots coming up at its base. For now all are staying.

I planted Hulda pole beans. I opted for pole beans this year in addition to the bush beans. The idea was that the bush beans would give me a larger initial harvest to allow for some dilly beans while the pole beans come on more slowly, allowing for beans over a longer season. I planted them very thickly as the birds tend to like bean seed about as much as they do seed of the zucchini. I scattered some radish seed along the row of beans, they should be up and out before the beans need the space.

If the fridge wasn’t packed with lettuce, spinach, broccoli and kale I would thin these beets. Holding off till there is more room. No sense in pulling them and not eating them.

Beets in need of thinning.
Time to thin some beets.

I picked up another basil plant at the local garden center. One cannot have too much basil… At the same garden center I found a horse radish plant. I planted it in a clay pot that I sunk into the garden. As I understand it this will help insure no bits of root are left behind to regrow when it comes time to harvest.

Much of the garden time was spent cleaning up. This year I started burying anything that isn’t diseased back into the garden if there is bare space. The garden is a few ounces lighter when it comes to slugs too. In addition to the ones I found lurking about I applied another application of Sluggo. Bwahahahaha!

About that Broccoli-Raab

Once again I did something I tend to do a lot.  Purchase plants or seed for something I’ve never eaten and give it precious space in the garden.  I swear I am not going to do it and year after year I just can’t resist trying something new.  This wasn’t a real problem in KY as space was not an issue.  When trying to garden in a 10’x20′ space however, every square foot is precious.  I did it with several items this year.  The perennial kale has already died so that isn’t an issue.  Currently the broccoli x can’t_remember_what is going strong as is the broccoli-raab.  When I saw the seeds in the catalog I thought, great, another broccoli (which we tend to eat a lot of) and ordered a packet of seed.  They were the first to bolt while still in the container on the porch.  At that point I had to make a decision.  If we were going to have this broccoli-raab I would have to buy transplants.  Fast forward to now and the eight (yes eight) transplants that went in the ground about five weeks ago are ready to harvest.  Oh my, talk about strong.  I know I have gene that tastes some veggies as bitter but this stuff is killer raw.  It does cook into a still bitter but edible veggie when I add vinegar to mask the bitterness.  When the baby broccoli harvest begins the b-raab will be pulled.  Add one to the ‘not growing again’ list.

I finally planted the Nigella in the spinach spot today.  Also, my first radishes, more overwinterd broccoli, lettuce and spinach were harvested.  Thank goodness for a friend who agreed to take some off of my hands.  Still learning about the amount each veggie needed.  The yields of some things are so much greater here.

May’s Lessons Learned:  1. One can only eat so much spinach and lettuce.  For the love of God stagger the lettuce plantings.  2. When trying out a new plant try one or two, not eight. 3. When planting radishes don’t plant them between rows of something that will overshadow them.

Harvest

The broccoli almost as tall as I am.
The broccoli almost as tall as I am.

Returned from vacation yesterday to a garden ready to harvest.  The overwintering broccoli is almost as tall as I am and was full of little purple shoots just prior to the pic.  I’ve been harvesting on these three since last month.  The flavor is a little peppery when raw but not so much when cooked.  The color doesn’t really remain when cooking.

Bloomsdale and Palco spinach
Bloomsdale (left) and Palco (right)

The lettuce is beautiful as is the spinach and overwintered kale.  I harvested all three today.    I had attempted to harvest a couple of heads of Red Sails lettuce, roots attached, before leaving for vacation on the 8th.  These were bagged and left in the fridge.  I returned home to find they had wilted and were a total loss.  I would have been better just to leave them in the ground it seems.  I was concerned the heat we had been having might cause them to bolt but upon returning they were beautiful with no hint of bitterness.  Two plantings of lettuce were ready to harvest.  A couple of more heads of Red Sails and also the lettuce mix.  The latter is a cut-and-come-again type that will keep providing leaves when you give the plants a ‘haircut’.  I scattered the seed in a 1′ x 5′ area and it is thick and lush right now.

Dill
Dill

The Bloomsdale spinach that was planted back in early Feb was harvested and the plants pulled as they were just starting to bolt.  I will Nigella flowers in the empty spot once I get some seed.  I had attempted to plant some with the dill back in March but they have been choked out by some very healthy looking dill.

I seeded the zucchini a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. I couldn’t stand seeing the bare ground any longer.

by: kerry