A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


It Worked!!! My garlic trial is successful...so far. You might remember that a few weeks ago I planted garlic that I bought at the grocery store. I wasn't sure how it would do because sometimes grocery chains spray root preventor/growth retardant on garlic so that it looks better in the shelves. This time, though, I lucked out!!! So...here it is:

And a close-up...

I planted 11 cloves a few weeks ago and 5 came up really strong with a 6th just trying to poke through. Not bad for not using seed garlic. After the winter freeze and the spring re-growth, we'll see how the plants do. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Clean-up

So... I thought that it was time to rip out some plants!! The weather has been very 'fall' for the last few weeks - nighttime lows in the upper 40's...daytime highs in the 60's. The tomatoes are all but done. The cukes too. You might remember that a while back I updated the My Garden section in the sidebar. In it was this picture of the lush kitchen garden in summer.

Well...now it's fall and the garden is a bit more bare...

And from another angle:

So where did all of those dead plants end up? You guessed it - the composter!

How is your garden looking this fall?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garden Update

So...its been a while since I put up some pics of the kitchen garden. Fall is a transition period - the work of summer has shown its bounty and the still of winter is not quite here. Still, there are things happening in the garden. Multiple sowings of salad greens have given us the late August/September supply:

The October supply (yes, it has a few weeks left to mature):

And the November supply (in 8 weeks, this will be looking good):

This past weekend I also seeded the December salad greens. This coming weekend, the January supply will be seeded and the following weekend the February supply. In order to overwinter this stuff, not only will the greens be protected in coldframes, the varieties are also extremely cold tolerant. Lettuces such as Arctic King, North Pole, Winter Density, and Red Oakleaf have been planted. Asian greens such as Mizuna and Tatsoi will add to the mix. Arugula, Mache, and Claytonia will add some interest. Finally Spinach, one of the most cold hearty (second only to Mache) greens will round out the bunch.

I've got some radishes coming in nicely as well:

These are the French Breakfast variety.

I mentioned that Fall is a transition time. Remember the Super 100 tomatoes that I posted about several times? Well, here is that plant after it gave all that it had:

Poor thing - it was a trooper!

A special 'hello' and 'thanks' to my wife's friends whom I met this past weekend. Your kind words about the blog and your 'stalking' were most appreciated! :-) I even got a little inspiration - more on that in the Spring.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Site updates

As work on the kitchen garden slows with the onset of fall, I have been working behind the scenes on the blog. As I mentioned in the last post, I have been putting together info for several series of posts for the winter. Also, I have been working to finish the blog itself.

Look over on the right-hand side at the pages.

I have just finished the page titled My Garden. Take a peek. Why not add a comment on this post about your garden so that we can all learn the best of the best in kitchen gardening.

I still have to finish the pages The Historic Kitchen Garden and Farm to Table - the Journey. Look for them soon...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weather update

Two weeks ago I posted a snippet about the weather as it transitioned from summer to fall. I think that the transition is complete!!

While the average temperature was 80 degrees for the about 11 weeks of summer that we had and the transition period averaged 70 degrees, we are now experiencing averages of 60 degrees. I say this because nighttime temps are consistently dropping as low as 48 degrees and daytime temps struggle to reach the low 70s. While I love this weather (as I've said before) and while it makes me want to hang up the day job and be a farmer(!!!), the summer plants are suffering.

The cherry tomatoes are all but dead. It was the compost pile for the summer squash - it was just pitiful. The other day, I picked all of the remaining peppers because the leaves were just shivering from the cool nights!!

Unfortunately, I didn't put enough effort into the fall and winter crops this year because I was focusing on getting the 'intensive planting' spacing just right. Although it worked well, I should have incorporated more fall and early winter crops. Live and learn!

Since I can't go back and change it now, I am focusing on prepping the winter cold frame beds. Along with planting garlic this past weekend, I started a planting series for the cold frames. Including this past weekend, I will plant one bed each weekend for four weekends. This stagger should have each bed at different stages of maturity by the time growth stops (approx. Nov. 1 in zone 5). That way, I can harvest in the same order! In each bed, I have included a mix of lettuces (Red Oakleaf, Winter Density, North Pole), a mix of asian greens (Tatsoi, Mizuna), spinach, mache, and claytonia.

Knowing that there won't be much to do in my small garden during the winter, I have also been planning many posts which will focus on planning for the coming year as well as providing info about the importance of local food, information about natural vs. man-made ingredients, kitchen garden history, and planting and growing more efficiently in small spaces (like a kitchen garden). Look for those to start soon!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Technical Difficulties

It seems as though there was an error in the code for my hit counter. I fixed it but it reset - will have to remember to add about 500 to whatever it reads!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Hello all! How was your long weekend?

I, amongst other things, planted garlic this Labor Day weekend. I've never done it before but I thought 'Why not?' I did a little poking around on the internet and found that in some cases it is perfectly acceptable to plant garlic that was purchased in the produce aisle of the supermarket (I say 'in some cases' because occasionally supermarkets and their suppliers spray garlic with a root growth inhibitor to make it look better in the store). Since I am just trying out planting garlic, I'll take the risk! I asked my wife how much garlic we usually use in a year (remember...she does the cooking) and she told me that we might use 5 or 6 heads. Since each clove of garlic planted grows 1 head, I figured that one head's worth should be enough. I bought a head at the supermarket and went to work. To find out how I did it, watch an expert here:

I ended up getting 9 good sized cloves from my head of garlic. If they all work, we will have 9 heads to cook with. As he says, if it really is this easy, we could all do it! Now I'll just have to wait 8 months to see how it turns out. Watch here...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Basil Problems - a reader question

My wife told me that one of her friends who was reading the blog the other day had a question about her basil. It seems that as hard as she tries, every year her basil turns yellow and dies. She wonders why and what she can do about it. To find the answer, I think we'll have to think like a plant for a minute!

It is importnant to note that basil comes from countries that surround the Mediterranean. There are three main components to the climate there - warmth, lots of sun, and easy-draining soil. The warmth I think that we have taken care of in Wisconsin summers. That leaves sun and well-drained soil. So...if we were to think like a plant, waht would we need to be happy? To begin with, be sure that basil is always located in an area with LOTS of sun. Then, make sure that the soil doesn't hold water. If basil is planted in the ground and that ground has a lot of clay, water will stay close to the plant for too long. Basically, the plant will be drowning and will look like this!

One easy fix - plant basil in a pot with a good quality potting mix. Let the soild dry a little after each watering (in other words...don't keep it moist). Be sure to keep the pot in the sun. If you do that, you might just get this:

A rule of thumb - if the plant turns yellow and dies - too much water. If it turns brown and dies - too little water.

If you ever have too much basil (under the right conditions, basil grows like a weed!) you could always make pesto and freeze it!

Thanks for the question - keep em coming!

I noticed something this morning before work that really let me know that autumn is on the way - a flock of geese migrating in a perfect 'V.' It kinda made me say 'awww' as I though of the change from the muggy summer to the crisp autumn that we're about to experience. And...get this...only 16 weeks 'til Christmas!!