A New Crop

I read something that tweaked my interest re the garden.   A couple of weeks ago we picked up celery at Publix.   It was a standard package with the top greens trimmed off.   Nancy put it in the fridge veggie drawer and then cut it off horizontally as she used it – from the top and working down toward the heel.  This as opposed to using it a stalk at a time.   What I read was that you could cut off the heel and plant it directly in the garden.   I decided to try it but didn’t really expect anything happen – since the celery had probably been out of the grounds for weeks and mostly refrigerated.  I set it out on the porch in a shallow bowl with an inch or so of water.   Less than a week later, it was putting out green leaves from the center of the heel.   No roots showing (yet) but clearly the plant was alive and well.   I’ll give it another week on the porch and then move it to the garden.  I’m stoked about this since I’ve tried growing celery from seed several time with less than great success.   I’ve gotten celery plants but the stalks are small and stringy.   We usually pick up celery each time we go to Publix – probably one a week – so in a couple of months we could be celery independent – the same way we are now pineapple independent.  

According to the article, 4-5 of these plants in the garden should take care of a family of four year round.  

Farm to Market Job

Got up early and walked up to get the paper – looking for the weekly Publix ad.   Nancy had said she wanted to go and pick up a few things.  The ad, this time, included a $50 Shell gas card for $40.  One card for each $50 you spend.   Since we’re driving very little these days, we have an inventory of Shell cards but it’s hard to pass up a 20% discount on gas.   We also knew that  if you get a flu shot there you get a $10 Publix credit card.   So for a purchase of $100 – not a challenge for Nancy – we would get a $20 discount on today’s grocery cart via the flu shots and two $50 gas cards.   No brainer.    The trick is trying to load the grocery cart and hit the $100.   Nancy keeps track of that in her head as she’s shopping along pitching things in the cart.   She normally hits it within $10 but today was the all time record – she spent $100.04.   Remember, no pencil and paper and not knowing the exact numbers on any particular item since we’re both loading the cart.   When I have to go alone in that same gas card situation, I make a list on the laptop and then fill in the prices as I shop along – keeping a running total. Much clunkier than Nancy’s method.

In the last post I mentioned planting winter garden seeds on Sept 15.   I mentally program a week for germination so I was surprised again when a substantial number of the seeds popped out in two days.   What’s going on this year?  I’ll be transferring these little seedlings to small pots – yogurt cups with holes drilled in the bottom to allow bottom watering- in the next day or two.   The first to repot will be the tomatoes and green peppers but the kale, cabbage, and cauliflowers are right behind. 

Here’s an interesting one.  I mention often last year about my afternoons in Palm Coast – dropping off Nancy at bridge and then going to Waterfront Park for a long walk.   The end destination of the walk was  a Pub and a brewery in the European Village.   I made friends with the bartender at the pub and used to bring her vegetables from the garden for her vegetarian daughter.   She quit charging me for the beer and I had a home for excess veggies.   I haven’t been there since February and was fairly certain the place would be shut down or operating in a much reduced mode.  Imagine my surprised when we got a call this morning from “Denise”.   She’s not working until the place can operate 100% but decided to open a small, farm to market, breakfast place in the Village.  That’s an upscale operation.  She asked if I would sell her greens and other veggies for the restaurant.  I told her that I wouldn’t commit to anything because you never know with a home garden but that she was welcome to my excess – no charge.  I’m thinking maybe an occasional breakfast for us.   The new place is about 2 doors down from the pub so I imagine she’d run restaurant in the morning and then pop over to the pub in the afternoon.  So I’ll have to plant little more Kale and Chard than usual and make a more concentrated effort on getting spinach to grow.  

In full garden mode

The garden is making decent progress.   Beans started sprouting 5 days after planting the seed; 2 days later for the tomatoes – both with a high germination rate.  The squash seed went in on the 11th so I’m expecting to see action there by the end of this week.   In all these cases, I’m using new seed so my expectations are for nearly 100% germination.   I’m going to plant a few lettuce seeds in the next day or so.  It’s a little early but we’re getting so much rain that it might just work.   The seed for the lettuce is a year old so germination will be diminished, maybe.   But why not try.   The weather is forecast to be cooler and wet this coming week so why not try.  

Update.   Believe it or not, the squash seeds germinated overnight.  I planted 5 seeds each of two varieties and all 10 had popped out overnight.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that rapid a response.   Also yesterday, all of the tomato seeds have popped – about a week and consistent with past experience.   The only seeds that haven’t popped are the green peppers and I don’t expect to see them for another week. 

Moving on, planted a single row of carrots, probably 50 or so.   I’ll wait for those to germinate, estimate 10-14 days, and then plant another row.  So I’ll be planting new rows every couple of weeks – should keep us going from November right thru to next May.   I’m proud of the carrots because I had such a hard time with them when the garden started but over the years improved the soil enough that the crop is not even in question.

Also started, indoors, the real bulk of fall/winter seeds.   That includes several varieties of kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, and collards.   The seeds should germinate in a week to 10 days then be transplanted to little yogurt cups to put on growth.   If all goes well, they should be ready for planting in the main garden towards the end of October.   

No wonder I’m worn out by the end of the day!

Official start of the fall garden

I’m officially designating Sept 7 as the first day of the fall garden season.   I finished weeding enough rows and tilled them – about half the total space.   Then I planted seeds indoors – 4 different tomato varieties and green bell peppers.   Two of the tomato varieties are one’s I’ve never tried before.  I waited too long to order seeds and some that I’ve had success with were out of stock.  

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll start planting green bean seeds directly the garden.   I spread out the bean planting, doing two rows every two weeks, so they don’t all start producing at the same time.  Target for first planting is two ten foot rows with seeds planted 6” apart. 

Before the end of the week I’ll plant squash seeds directly in the garden.  My plan is to have one row with 5 squash plants, 36” apart.  Two varieties.   Sometimes we have a great squash season, sometimes not so great – depends on bug and weather conditions more than anything.  I’ve used both varieties in the past with reasonable success.  One problem with squash here in the fall is that the plants are really large with big leaves making them susceptible to wind damage.  

In a couple of weeks, maybe Oct 1, I’ll plant carrots.  The carrot strategy is the same as the beans – plant a row every couple of weeks to extend the harvest.  This year I bought nothing but pelleted carrot seed.  Carrot seed is to tiny that you have to over plant and then thin the tiny plant as they germinate.  Doesn’t sound like too big a deal but it’s hands and knees kind of work.   Pelleted seed is much more expensive but I planted some last year as well as using traditional seed and was well satisfied that the pelleted seed was worth the extra money.   

Maybe a small patch of lettuce even though it’s a bit early.   This is a hedge just in case we get a cooler than usual fall and there’s a variety called Black Seeded Simpson that handles heat fairly well.

The green peppers are a variety I’ve planted for the past 40 years with consistent results.   So now we just hope the weather is favorable – no early frost, no hurricane winds.

So we’re off and running

Finally some news

Had another strange one last night/this morning.   As usual I walked up to the mail box/newspaper box about 7AM.  We keep the trash can about half way up – next to the carport and utility sheds – maybe 100 feet or so up from the house.   I noticed that the trash can was turned on it’s side – a good sign that a bear had gotten into it.  I happened to remember that there were two full plastic trash bags in the can.  Usually when this happens, the bear gets the bag and rips it open creating a cleanup mess.  This time the can was empty but no signs of the trash bags.  I walked all around the property and never found a sign of any trash.  Checked both neighbors and still saw no trash.   Strange.

Spent two or so days straightening our a water problem.   Nancy was drawing a bath and called me when the water flow turned to a few drips.  This is not a totally unheard of event.   The well has a controller with contacts that open and close to activate the pump based on the pressure.  The contactor is contained in a small box next to the well/pump but it’s not sealed and inevitably bugs or lizards can  figure a way to get inside.  They get across the contacts – frying them – and shutting down the well pump.   The cure takes about 5 minutes and involves removing the cover, removing the dead body and lightly brushing off the contacts with an emory board.   You have to be careful since the electric service at the pump is 220V.   Sure enough, after cleaning the contacts, all seemed well – the pump turned on and the pressure built up to 50PSI and Nancy’s bath started refilling.   But 5 minutes later, back to the low pressure mode.   I called the well/pump guy and he said it didn’t sound like a problem on his end but rather a clogged filter somewhere in the system.   That was easy to figure since we have a water softener which had been serviced just the day before – for smelly water.   The service guy said the problem was that the tank had been placed in the  by-pass mode and all he did was to put it back in the regular operating mode.  I remembered that they, Culligan, had placed the unit in bypass mode a month or so back to remove some air that had gotten in the system.  So I took it out of bypass and, as if by magic, the system started working – with smelly water.   A quick call resolved that by a Culligan service call to replace the old tank.   So now we’re back in business.

As long as I was messing with the water system, I decided to drain the hot water heater tank.  That’s something recommended on a 6-month/1 year routine maintenance schedule.   Being a guy always on top of things like this – it had been several years since I had drained it.  I’m mechanically challenged so I generally avoid any interaction with these systems.   In this case it went off without a hitch.   I had picked up a tip on the internet to tie a sock around the hose to collect the grit on the bottom of the tank.  I expected to find a mess but instead it was maybe a couple ounces of sand and grit.