It’s hard to believe it’s time to start growing and planning for the next season. Normally by mid-November I am ready for a break and my summer garden looks like it is too but this year it’s seems that my off-time went by too quickly and I’m scrambling to catch up. I’m a bit behind also due to a knee injury that I got while harvesting snow peas last February. I think it’s a torn meniscus but we won’t know for sure until January 21st when I have arthroscopic surgery. Hopefully all will heal quickly and I will be back on my feet in no time.
So in case you think I was slacking this last 6 weeks let me reassure you that I have not. We started our spring plantings in our garage with shelves, heat mats and lots of grow lights back in the first week of December and they are ready to be transitioned to cold cage and then in ground hopefully by last week of January under low row covers. We started about 14 trays. I am doing the usual Redbor, Scarlet, Winterbor and Lacinato Kale as well as multiple colors of chard. We are trying our hand at brussel sprouts and found a variety called “Long Island Improved” sold by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. We buy a lot of seed from Baker Creek. Last spring we grew Red Express Cabbage and were very pleased with it. The Brunswick Cabbage is my choice for a green head cabbage. Now I don’t know if others around here do well with growing Chinese cabbage but I didn’t do well with mine last year and the bugs enjoyed more than we did. In spite of my poor first season with it I will try again. This time with the Hitton Cabbage. Although the heads weren’t enormous, they were nice an compact and the flavor was amazing. I thought it would be fun to do a purple broccoli so we are trying the “Early Purple Sprouting”. Lately I’ve been craving roasted cauliflower, mashed cauliflower, cauliflower dip and well….you get the idea so we are growing the “Green Macerata” and the “Giant of Naples”. I will be happy if I get some “Giant of Paso Robles”! Lastly we are doing leafy greens like the Tyee & Bloomsdale spinaches, Tatsoi and Baby Pak Choi.
I also decided to try my hand at overwintering tomatoes and Peppers in pots in my garage so I have eighteen 5 gallon pots and five 10 gallon containers of 4 dwarf tomato varieties. Some of them are 3 ft tall already and have flowers. I grew these all from seeds, most of which one of my Facebook breeder friend’s (Blane Horton of Marianna’s Seeds) gave me. I also started two Serrano peppers from peppers that one of my co-workers, Alicia Sanchez gave me. I am hoping they weren’t hybrids but again, it’s one of the fun things about gardening….there is always a chance that things won’t be as expected. So I will let you know how the overwinter project goes. Right now I just put my first treatment of milk on them to combat what I believe is powdery mildew. I’m concerned that because the milk isn’t raw that the enzymes needed to combat the fungus are not present. We will see.
I cringe when I have to buy a tomato in a store. I almost want to disguise myself with hood and glasses, ashamed that someone might recognize me as that “tomato lady” at Farmers and wonder why I’m buying from a store. I can count the times on one hand that I’ve actually purchased a tomato in a supermarket, during the winter months, and actually thought that it tasted okay. Cold growing conditions create tomatoes that taste flat and millie which is why I consider it a cardinal sin to put tomatoes in the refrigerator. Ours always sit on the kitchen table or counter until we eat them.
Our current projects include the tearing down of “Garden 3”, the tilling of garden 1 & 2, sowing cover in garden 2, and planting of alliums. We would like to host goats for several months in garden 3 so that the goats can eat all the left over green waste from last year. I did this last year as well. Although we are organic we don’t grow our alliums from seed but rather buy bulb or transplants. I have used Dixondale Farms for several years for our onion and leek transplants and we are really happy with them. The candy apple purples are intermediate day varieties that grow well here and they are hands down one of the best purple onions I’ve ever tasted. So we have 600 purples, 600 Lancelot Leeks and 120 Yellows coming in the 2nd week of January so we need to be ready for them. Our garlic is from Tesch Family Farms or from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. I missed the boat on ordering this year again so I won’t have as much garlic this year.
I’m always adding permanent crop and playing with different things. Last week we planted 3 peach trees, 2 nectarines and 1 Aprium tree. Last summer I put in 50 strawberry plants up top along the driveway. I just bought 5 more berry bushes and I have 5 more, from pots last year that will go in the ground in two weeks. Our Globe artichokes are doing quite well and we are looking forward to our third year of fruit from them. Our asparagus has done well for 4 years now and there is no sign that they want to stop so this year shouldn’t be any different and we will have some at market.
Our free range chickens are up around the house now more than ever and while we enjoy watching them, have to constantly clean up the landscape after them. Since the beginning we’ve invested in costly organic feed (Nutrena, Organic Pride etc) and have only medicated once when we thought a baby chick was sick. Even with our starter/grower we use non medicated. We weren’t sure what was wrong with her as her balance seems off and she would fall over easily. She still does this and is a weak hen but she gets around okay and is now full size and almost a year old. We feed our chickens our green waste as well and I take pride in their apparent liking to tomatoes. We have one too many roosters and we will have to figure a plan for one of three coming up soon as they are all starting to try to swoon the ladies. The oldest rooster and father to the other two is quite gentle and rather tame. We treat our chickens as pets and they all have names and I will tell you their names….. in a later post.
Lots to look forward to in 2016. We hope to be back at Paso Robles Saturday Country Farm & Craft Market and look forward to our continued relationships with supplying produce to restaurants and other businesses in the north County including growing specific things for folks on request. We also are throwing around the idea of a small CSA for the summer with a handful of clients getting weekly baskets of fruits, veggies, nuts and eggs. I would also like to do a fall harvest dinner out on the back lawn with one of the restaurants we work with to thank all the wonderful people in our community and show them where their food comes from. We love what we do and we love being able to share our organic farm with the folks in SLO County.