This Week (and Last Week)’s Vegetable Boxes

Jessica harvesting between two beds of bush beans

Jessica harvesting between two beds of bush beans

I realize it has been a while since I’ve updated this blog. My absence isn’t caused by a lack of interest in soil and farming, but rather quite the opposite: I’m so completely immersed in planting winter crops and harvesting summer crops that I haven’t taken the time to write. Last weekend I was in Vancouver for my dear friends’ wedding, and poor Jessica had to fill that Sunday’s vegetable boxes all by herself. I’m really proud of her. Our Sunday vegetable box harvests are hard work, even with two (or four) people. Today’s harvest, with both of us working, took almost eight hours, and in my opinion the resultant boxes are the best we’ve sent out so far. Jessica and I are both feeling very optimistic about the future of our tiny quarter-acre farm.

One of This Week's Vegetable Boxes

One of This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

One of Last Week's Vegetable Boxes

One of Last Week’s Vegetable Boxes

Part of Section 6 in all it's summer glory

Part of Section 6 in all it’s summer glory

Sections One and Two, From a Ladder in the Evening

the part of the garden that has been under cultivation for the longest (since spring 2011), shot from a ladder on a warm evening

the part of the garden that has been under cultivation for the longest (since spring 2011), shot from a ladder on a warm evening

Outdoor Winter Hardwood Prunus Rootstock Propagation Success

Rooted prunus rootstock

Rooted prunus rootstock

In January I cut some wood off a dormant ‘Saint Julian A’ Prunus rootstock specimen, dipped the cut ends into powdered rooting hormone (indole 3 butyric acid, 0.8%), and planted them into one-gallon pots of peat/perlite/lime mix. The potted cuttings were left in the field, unprotected. I put 6 cuttings in each one-gallon pot. Now, six months later, it looks like roughly 40% of the cuttings have formed roots. I began re-potting them this evening, moving each rooted cutting into it’s own one-gallon pot with peat/perlite/lime/organic fertilizer/compost mix. I’m excited to find out that low-tech hardwood propagation of this sort of rootstock is possible in our climate. I’m hoping to begin grafting damsons and plums onto some of these rootstocks in the next couple of years, baby steps toward Jessica and my plum-filled future.

a smaller example from the same batch of cuttings

a smaller example from the same batch of cuttings

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

one of this week's shares, clockwise from the bottom (sort of): Green onions, garlic, mini purple cabbages, basil, cilantro (with roots - delicious!), salad mix, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, black kale, and dill

one of this week’s shares, clockwise from the bottom (sort of): Green onions, garlic, mini purple cabbages, basil, cilantro (with roots – delicious!), salad mix, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, black kale, and dill

Winter Squash and Tomato Fighting

Red Kuri squash and Roma tomatoes. I've been pulling the squash vines out of the tomato beds every week or so.

Red Kuri squash and Roma tomatoes. I’ve been pulling the squash vines out of the tomato beds every week or so.

We brought two fallow triangular sections of our field into cultivation this spring. We filled each triangle with winter squash, planted at a very high density (for winter squash), with plants about 3 feet apart in all directions. Each squash triangle is now attempting to swallow-up all neighbouring beds, as winter squash vines are wont to do in July.

Mid July Update

winter squash

winter squash

Aside from weekly vegetable box updates, I haven’t been posting much to my blog lately. At this time of year, I am so fully immersed in gardening that I sometimes have to remember to come up for air. The blog has suffered, and I smell terrible. Much of the month’s work involves the planting and transplanting of autumn, winter, and spring vegetables. We’ve now got about three quarters of these cool season vegetables sown. One month from now, in mid-August, all the cool season crops will be in the ground and the year’s planting will be finished. Except for garlic. To make up for the recent scarcity of blog updates, please enjoy the photos I took in our field this evening.

outdoor tomatoes

outdoor tomatoes

poppy

poppy

annual flowers

annual flowers

walla walla onions

walla walla onions

section 6, the new area

section 6, the new area

artichoke

artichoke

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

one of this week's boxes, from right to left: Cucumber, walla walla onion, zucchini, cabbage, baby shallots, garlic, beets (cylindra and golden), basil, broccoli, kale, peas

one of this week’s boxes, from right to left: Cucumber, walla walla onion, zucchini, cabbage, baby shallots, garlic, beets (cylindra and golden), basil, broccoli, kale, peas

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

July's First Box: kale, beets, salad mix, zucchini, shallots, garlic, mini red cabbage, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cilantro and basil

July’s First Box: kale, beets, salad mix, zucchini, shallots, garlic, mini red cabbage, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cilantro and basil

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

one of this week's shares, from left to right (sort of): shelling peas, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, beets, garlic scapes, sugar snap peas, carrots, zucchini, kohlrabi, and lettuce mix

one of this week’s shares, from left to right (sort of): shelling peas, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, beets, garlic scapes, mangetout peas, carrots, zucchini, kohlrabi, and lettuce mix

full boxes ready for pickup

full boxes ready for pickup

Sheet-Mulched Zucchini

The year's first planting of zucchini, seeded into pots in early May and planted out in the field in late May. The second planting was seeded in mid-June, and will be planted out some time next week.

The year’s first planting of zucchini, seeded into pots in early May and planted out in the field in late May. The second planting was seeded in mid-June, and will be planted out some time next week.

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

our volunteer harvest team

our volunteer harvest team

We had some very welcome help with today’s harvest: Four of Terry’s students are visiting the farm, and they harvested and filled boxes alongside us this morning. Three are from South Korea, and one is from Thailand. With a total of eight people working at it, we filled the boxes in record time. I love it when people from other countries visit the farm. I have hundreds of questions about hundreds of places.

One of this week's vegetable boxes

One of this week’s vegetable boxes

Lettuce Beside Peas

Elbow Room for Beets

a late-March sowing of beets, currently being harvested

a late-March sowing of beets, currently being harvested

I spend a lot of time standing in the field pondering beet spacing. I also spend a lot of time crouched down in the field thinning beets, as I find they respond very well to being given a bit of space to spread out. This year we’re growing most of our beets in triple rows down our a-little-wider-than-three-feet-wide beds. The rows are about nine inches apart, and we aim for four or five inches between each beet within the rows. This is more beets per square foot than one would likely find in a large, tractor-driven farm, but far less than I see in most home gardens, where they are often crammed together, sometimes to such an extent that the roots are physically unable to properly expand. A bit of time spent scratching one’s beard while considering plant density pays great dividends with beets.

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

Clockwise from the bottom (sort of): Cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, butter lettuce,  beets, daikon, cilantro, garlic scapes, snap peas, spinach, napa cabbage, frizzy French iceberg lettuce

Clockwise from the bottom (sort of): Cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, butter lettuce, beets, daikon, cilantro, garlic scapes, snap peas, spinach, napa cabbage, frizzy French iceberg lettuce

I typically post a picture of the week’s vegetable boxes on the evening of each vegetable box day (Sundays, this year). Yesterday I was exhausted for all the picking, cleaning, sorting, boxing, and conversing, and I fell asleep while practicing yoga shortly after the last boxes left the farm. I expect some of the vegetable box updates will come in late from time to time this year, as harvest day is takes it all out of me, in the best possible way.

some of the assembled boxes, ready to be picked up

some of the assembled boxes, ready to be picked up

High Density Cabbage

give me some personal space!

give me some personal space!

Pictured at right is an experiment in growing summer cabbage at a very high density. The bed in question is about three feet wide, and the cabbages are planted in a double row down the centre of the bed, with the plants just eleven inches apart in each row. I’m usually enthusiastic about giving plants lots of room to spread out, but in this case I’m hoping the crowding will produce the smaller than usual cabbages I desire for the summer season.

Our Son Fuligo septica

our cute little guy hams it up for the camera

our cute little guy hams it up for the camera

A very dramatic slime mould appeared on a mulched asparagus bed the other day. Tom Volk has an amusing writeup about this myxomycete here. The slime mould in question has become like a son to Jessica and I, and we are raising it as our own. The love I feel for my son is like nothing else in the world. The fact that he doesn’t technically have a “cell wall” like other kids doesn’t affect the way Jessica and I feel about him one bit. We’ve made the difficult decision not to breastfeed him, as he prefers to digest an assortment of bacteria with his pseudopodia. I’m not ashamed of the way he absorbs nutrients, and I don’t care one bit who knows it! We’re probably going to home school, because we aren’t comfortable moving him to an unmulched environment that may or may not have the high moisture levels he needs to thrive.

how could you not love him!? What a sweetie

how could you not love him!? What a sweetie

Ripe Strawberries

First Vegetable Boxes of 2013

from left to right (roughly): kale, radishes, broccoli, salad mix, napa cabbage, red bok choi, dill, spinach, romaine lettuce, cilantro

from left to right (roughly): kale, radishes, broccoli, salad mix, napa cabbage, red bok choi, dill, spinach, romaine lettuce, cilantro

We started the 2013 Vegetable Box Program one week earlier than we’d initially planned this year, and felt a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as the Vegetable Box People came to pick up their produce this evening. The program will run for 23 consecutive weeks this year, four weeks longer than the 2012 program. Very careful attention to soil mineral balance, weed control, and irrigation, and well-planned succession plantings, will hopefully allow us to fill all 20 boxes each week. With grit and determination we will distribute a total of 460 boxes to our members over the course of the year.

Thanks, Morag!

Morag and Joe

Morag and Joe

Morag accomplished at least six weeks worth of work in the two short weeks she stayed with us. I couldn’t imagine a more pleasant person to have around, helping us with our endless toil. She turned thousands of pounds of compost, spread manure, thinned, planted, slashed comfrey, hauled materials, and generally helped with the hundred inter related tasks that keep a complicated garden going. She was good at everything. Her boyfriend Joe came up for the last couple of days, and the two of them are almost as cute a couple as Jessica and I. I tend to find cute couples somewhat threatening, as Jessica and I pride ourselves in being “The cutest couple north of the 50th parallel”, and take our reputation very seriously, but these two weren’t upsetting to be around at all, and I hope they return sooner rather than later.

‘Spring Hero’ Cabbage – Final Update

'Spring Hero' cabbage in late May

‘Spring Hero’ cabbage in late May

Constant change is the only predictable part of the universe, and things are changing pretty quickly around here. We’ve pushed the date of the first vegetable boxes of the 2013 Vegetable Box Program forward by one week, due to very fast growth of many of the spring-sown crops. The first boxes won’t be as full as those that will follow them, but I expect they’ll still be greatly appreciated by the 20 families we now lovingly refer to as “The Vegetable Box People”. I’ll be posting photos of each week’s boxes every Sunday evening, starting on the 9th of June.

'Spring Hero' cabbage, cut open

‘Spring Hero’ cabbage, cut open

In other news, serendipity thrust Morag into our lives early last week, and she has been working very hard in the field ever since. She is a wonderful volunteer  and we’ve been trying to convince her to stay on a bit longer. The other day she planted three hundred linear feet of carrot row in one go, by hand, without taking a break! I’ll post a photo of her and her man Joe here tomorrow.

The cabbage photos accompanying this post were taken about three weeks ago. Better late than never, I suppose. Our August 2012 sowing of ‘Spring Hero’ cabbage was a complete success, and will be repeated for sure.

Poppy Buds

Spinach and Peas

Spinach and peas, happy together. Both sown in mid-April, the spinach is being harvested now, giving the peas room to spread out.

Spinach and peas, happy together. Both sown in mid-April, the spinach is being harvested now, giving the peas room to spread out.

Carrot Progress

carrot silhouette on insect net

carrot silhouette on insect net

inside the net

inside the net

Comfrey Border

This is some comfrey Jessica planted next to section one in the autumn of 2011. The little divisions were planted directly into turf and sheet-mulched. Most of the plants have been run over more than once by our truck, in addition to having been stepped on by many peoples’ feet, and they are stil five feet tall and covered in blooms and insects of all sorts. We periodically slash the comfrey back with shears and machetes, and it grows back with startling speed. Comfrey is the Iggy Pop of hardy perennials.

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Planting Tomatoes

a coldframe stuffed with well hardened tomato plants, ready to be planted

a coldframe stuffed with well hardened tomato plants, ready to be planted

I started planting the year’s tomatoes today. We’re putting in 54 ‘Latah’, 51 ‘Ropreco’, and a dozen or so of an unnamed Burmese variety. Next year we’ll be growing a greater variety of varieties, as our seed company, long dormant, has re-germinated and will require a wide assortment of tomatoes, particularly fast, tough determinate varieties. If anyone has any they’d like to see grown out and made more widely available, drop me a line.

Onion Melatonin

This morning, after the rain stopped, I realized that all the onion flowers in one section of the field were occupied by sleeping bees. Some of the blooms, such as that pictured at right, held more than one bee. I watched them closely, and found that, once in a while, one of the bees would wake up and stagger along the flower for a moment, seemingly in a daze, before returning to sleep. By afternoon they were awake and buzzing around normally again.

Shiitake on Alder Logs!

our first shiitake, the delicious product of mycological neglect

our first shiitake, the delicious product of mycological neglect

Three years ago, when we had first moved to Quadra and were living in Open Bay, we inoculated some freshly cut alder logs with shiitake and oyster mushroom spawn. We watered them a few times that first summer, then forgot about them. When we moved to our current home, in February of 2011, we brought some of the inoculated logs with us. We stacked them in a shady place, and promptly forgot all about them again, not giving them periodic rehydration soaks, as is generally recommended, and generally paying them very little mind. Until two days ago, that is, when I happened to walk back to where they were piled to have a pee, and I spied a shiitake mushroom growing from one of the logs. I almost peed all over my leg! To make a short story long, we soaked the logs in our pond, and now have them positioned in a prominent place that we walk past several dozen times every day. I’ve been spending quality time with them twice daily, convinced I’m seeing little mushroom pins forming. This may or may not be in my imagination. Expect updates soon, as my interest in growing mushrooms on hardwood logs has been re-inoculated.

viewed from above, growing from a section of alder

viewed from above, my first shiitake growing from a section of alder

we floated the inoculated logs in our pond for 24 hours to rehydrate them and hopefully stimulate fruiting

we floated the inoculated logs in our pond for 24 hours to rehydrate them and hopefully stimulate fruiting

like a father who was never around then suddenly shows up and starts taking his teenage kids to baseball games and whatnot, I watch the logs every day and hope they don't resent me

like a father who was never around then suddenly shows up and starts taking his teenage kids to baseball games and buying them designer jeans and whatnot, I now spend time with the logs every day and hope they don’t resent me or fail to live up to their potential out of spite

Napa Cabbage

green and purple napa cabbage, protected from brassica pests by a insect net low tunnel

green and purple napa cabbage, protected from brassica pests by a insect net low tunnel

Farewell Nena

Our first intern of 2013, Nena, is leaving the farm tomorrow morning. She is from The Netherlands and has been living and working with us since early April. She has moved countless wheelbarrows of manure, and planted thousands of onions and leeks, and laughed at most of my jokes. She didn’t complain once in over a month of work, which is truly remarkable. I complain at least once every half hour, and it is my project! Jessica and I really enjoyed having her as a temporary member of our family, and will miss her when she’s gone. Afscheid, Nena. Bedankt voor al het harde werk en voor het onderwijs me hoe je Nederlands te spreken. Het is een mooie taal, en helemaal niet moeilijk om uit te spreken.

Mache Under Broccoli

a clump of mache, the result of a thwarted attempt to save it's seed in this bed last summer, grows through the fine leaf mulch under a planting of purple sprouting broccoli

a clump of mache, the result of a thwarted attempt to save it’s seed in this bed last summer, grows through the fine leaf mulch under a planting of purple sprouting broccoli

May Cauliflower Harvest

overwintered cauliflower success: a 'Galleon' cauliflower, planted in early July, harvested in early May

overwintered cauliflower success: a ‘Galleon’ cauliflower, planted in early July, harvested in early May

the author with cauliflower in a doorway on a sunny afternoon in May

the author with cauliflower in a doorway on a sunny afternoon in May

Early May

young rhubarb and friends in a shady corer of the field

young rhubarb and friends in a shady corer of the field

still life of seeding and repotting on a piece of plywood

still life of seeding and repotting on a piece of plywood

strawberry blossoms

strawberry blossoms

High Tech Insect Netting

we're using high-tech insect netting on some crops this year. Pictured here is a bed of broccoli and cabbage being protected from cabbage root maggots

we’re using high-tech insect netting on some crops this year. Pictured here is a bed of broccoli and cabbage being protected from cabbage root maggots

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Where Did I Go?

I took an unexpected hiatus from blogging over the past week or so, as I’ve been expending all my energy on planting and having a series of expected minor planting-related nervous breakdowns. I’m back now. Some readers may have been asking this question regarding my absence:

Salad Gap Vegetables

a late April harvest

a late April harvest

Peas, Two Months Old

Dwarf peas, sown in late February, reach for the sun

Dwarf peas, sown in late February, reach for the sun

Was Sorting Through Old Images Today

chickpea pods

chickpea pods

shipbuilding on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka

shipbuilding on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka

downtown Penticton, summer 2006

downtown Penticton, summer 2006

April Garlic, Weedy Pathway

Correction

Oops. A few days ago I posted here that I’ll be speaking about tomatoes at the HBI on April 23rd. The actual date is April 24th, so if you show up on the 23rd looking for my handsome face you’ll be  sorely disappointed. Come on the 24th.

‘Galleon’ Overwintering Cauliflower

The first 'Galleon' cauliflower of the year. We started these plants in early July and planted them about three weeks later. They overwintered happily with no protection other than mulch.

The first ‘Galleon’ cauliflower of the year. We started these plants in early July and planted them out in the field about three weeks later. They overwintered happily with no protection aside from leaf mulch.

Not a particularly well composed photograph, but it gives an idea of what the overwintered cauliflower planting looks like today, a little over nine months after planting. Only one of the plants has formed a curd so far, though they all look happy and I expect the harvest will be good.

Not a particularly well composed photograph, but it gives an idea of what the overwintered cauliflower planting looks like today, a little over nine months after planting. Only one of the plants has formed a curd so far, though they all look happy and I expect the harvest will be good.

Tent Caterpillar Year

This is going to be an exciting year for tent caterpillars in these parts. I pruned fruit trees all over the island this winter, and cut off many hundreds of tent caterpillar egg masses in the process. Caterpillars have now started to hatch in great numbers on trees everywhere. At right are some infested branches on an apple tree growing in a client’s garden last year, photographed immediately  before the writhing colonies were removed with my pruners. I’ll post more images as the season progresses.

Broccoli Trunk

The 2012/2013 sprouting broccoli season has been a delicious success. This is one of the garden's most impressive broccoli trunks.

The 2012/2013 sprouting broccoli season has been a delicious success. This is one of the garden’s most impressive broccoli trunks.

Lemongrass Propagation

Shortly after they take root, lemongrass cuttings begin to form new leaves of a distinctive light green colour. This cutting took about five weeks to root.

Shortly after they take root, lemongrass cuttings begin to form new leaves of a distinctive light green colour. This cutting took about five weeks to root.

U of Q, Growing Tomatoes, April 24th

Part of this year's crop of tomatoes, photographed before pricking-out eight days ago

Part of this year’s crop of tomatoes, photographed before pricking-out eight days ago

Come on down to the HBI on Wednesday, April 24th to hear me go on and on about growing tomatoes outdoors in our less-than-ideal-for-outdoor-tomato-growin’ west coast climate. I’ve got lots to say on the topic, and lots of photos to show. 7.00 pm.

The Beginning of Planting Season

We work all day every day in the field at this time of year. Pictured above is Jessica and two of our beloved volunteers planting a bed of shallots.

We work all day every day in the field at this time of year. Pictured above is Jessica and two of our beloved volunteers planting a bed of shallots.

Plum Blossoms

I'll post a picture of it every year: The plum tree in our field is in full bloom today

I’ll post a picture of it every year: The plum tree in our field is in full bloom today

Escarole from Provence

Escarole, with lens cap for scale

Escarole, with lens cap for scale

At the end of August we seeded some escarole into beds from which we’d recently harvested a crop of storage onions. The seed came from our friend’s father, who mailed it from the south of France. In November we covered the immature plants with a low tunnel to help them survive the winter. In late February and March it began growing very quickly and happily, and about one week ago we started harvesting the sweet, tangy leaves. Escarole is our favourite salad green of all, and it is most welcome in April, a month rich in spring seedlings but often lacking in non-brassica salad greens.

Artificial Sunlight

An asparagus seedling sprawls onto a fluorescent tube, absorbing as much artificial sunlight as it can

An asparagus seedling sprawls onto a fluorescent tube, absorbing as much artificial sunlight as it can

Early April Salad

In this spring salad (not everything is visible in the photograph): Miner's lettuce, wintercress, escarole, lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale buds, tatsoi. Flowers: Viola, choi sum, and arugula

In this spring salad (not everything is visible in the photograph): Miner’s lettuce, wintercress, escarole, lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale buds, tatsoi. Flowers: Viola, choi sum, and arugula

Late Purple Sprouting Broccoli

The first big florett of a late variety of purple sprouting broccoli

The first big florett of a late variety of purple sprouting broccoli