"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gardening Progress May 11, 2011

I have been growing stuff for years.  All kinds of vegetables, shrubs and trees that I like, and Tea Roses, which for those of you not heavily into gardening, are those big domesticated varieties.  But what amazes me is how excited I get every time I go out and see new things growing and thriving.  You would think that the thrill would somehow diminish over time, but it never does.  I go out and look at the new little tomatoes on the vines that are now almost the size of golfballs and I grin from ear to ear and act giddy in front of my wife.

My biggest tomato right now
There might be a few other people like us who have their garden in early, but they are few and far between.  We had one frost about a week ago that had us out covering anything that might suffer damage, and it was a lot of rushed work, which is never fun, but it was worth it.

This is straw bale gardening heaven
When I look at how well all of the plants are growing, I know that unless some strange tragedy strikes, we are going to have a great harvest.  I'm hoping that in another month we will be feasting on our own vine ripe tomatoes.  And let me say something about the term, "vine ripe."  Just because you leave some hot house tomatoes on some vines and ship them to the supermarket that way does not make them vine ripe.  Such tomatoes at premium prices may have a slightly better taste than the flavorless orbs that were picked green and shipped in cold storage, but they taste nothing like a tomato that I pick full red off my own vine, or get at the road side stand by someone who grew it locally the same way I would.

The world is full of people who only think they've tasted a tomato.  That sounds like a bold statement, but it's true nonetheless.  Which brings me to something else worth repeating.  NEVER refrigerate tomatoes.  I cannot over-emphasize this enough.  NEVER refrigerate tomatoes.  At least not good ones.  Those bland pieces of, er, umm, . . . those impostors from the supermarket; it doesn't much matter what you do with those.  Here's why:
There is a compound in tomato called Z-3 hexenel, which accounts for the tomato's scent and taste (well, that is, if it was left to ripen on the vine and wasn't refrigerated). The development process which turns tomato's linolenic acid to the Z-3 that makes our mouth and nose sing is hindered by cold. If you drop the temperature on a tomato to below 54° F for several hours, you kill the hexenel.  The longer the tomatoes stay in refrigeration the more of the hexenel you eliminate.

Since most any produce you buy in a supermarket has been kept as cold as is practical in order to prevent spoilage, you aren't going to get really good tasting tomatoes.  It's just not practical from a commercial standpoint.  No produce distributor is going to have separate, specially regulated temperature storage and trucks for tomatoes, apart from the same facilities used for lettuce and other things that need cold to last long.

Butter crunch leaf lettuce in front, Brussel sprouts behind growing in the leftovers of last years straw bales
That chicken wire is two feet tall and is there to discourage the two chickens from nibbling on them.  Out of all the chickens there were two that the other chickens just wouldn't stop picking on;  one of the black sexlinks and the little bantam.  I just let them out of the arks so they could roam and not be terrorized by the others.

Those are four of my cabbage plants in the back row that are just starting to form heads.  To the right of them are Romaine lettuce. I actually prefer the leaves of cabbage prior to heading.  They are deep and rich with green and have a subtly different flavor.  They are still tender, and most delicious when gently sauteed with some turkey ham.  (If that's not considered Kosher, I'll need a Rabbi to tell me why.  And, no, I'm not interested in keeping Glatt Kosher.

Twyla made her regular cole slaw recipe using the riper loose leaves of cabbage one time recently.  The slaw was such a deep, dark green that you wouldn't think of it as cole slaw.  The flavor was much stronger, although not hot, or spicy, like some cabbages can be, but the flavor was still too strongly different for Twyla.  I really liked it after mellowing out and blending in the fridge for 24 hours.
Those are bell pepper plants in the foreground.

Remember my post, Tater Talk?  Here is the cage as of today with another thin layer of straw and compost.  As a reminder, this cage is about 3' wide, by 7' long, and 2' tall.

I have two other beds of potatoes for experimental comparison.  One bed is a terraced spot in the back which was filled in with a mixture of some compost and a lot of rich soil that I dug up from under the dogwoods and hardwoods.  It's almost like peat moss.  The other bed is out front next to the corn.  It is simply the plain red clay dirt but with most of the granite rocks removed.  This is all for me to have real empirical evidence for what works best.  There's just something in my nature of the scientist who wants experimental proof for things.

As for the clay soil bed, I will try to only add plain mulch straw on top around the plants, and only in small amounts.  The goal will be to merely cut down on the weed growth.  Maybe it will, and maybe it won't.  I won't add any other soil amendments and no fertilizer.  I want to see just how much of a difference it makes to just let them grow with as little help as possible.

To the right is a closer view of a couple of the potato plants sprouting up through the straw.  When they get a couple of inches taller, I'll throw in an inch or two more of composted leaves and such.  I think I'll put in small amounts of chicken manure mixed with straw, but only in very tiny amounts.

Young potato plant
The close up is of one of the potato plants in the back terrace bed of compost and humus.  It almost looks like a variation of radish, but that will change as the plant matures.  It seems that red potatoes have a deeper green leaf as compared to the russets.

This is a side view of the rear potato bed.  I intend to keep adding more humus and maybe some other top soil to this area as they grow.  I may even experiment further by adding small amounts of 10-10-10 commercial fertilizer during the season.  It may seem a bit chaotic behind the bed there, but perhaps you can make out the beautiful daisies growing there.  A lot of wild flowers grow on the steep slope behind the house, along with lots of blackberries, which are looking really good this year.

This is a pic of one of my pea patches further down from where the potatoes are.  The white blossoms in the background are all blackberries.  Much of the rest of the greenery are wildflowers.

That's enough for today.  I've got things that demand my attention.  Maybe I'll have some time later to show you what I've done with some roses.

Shalom Y'all

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