I Might Have Co-Opted The Sweater Drying Rack

About a month ago it was pretty much the end of basil season here North of Seattle. Any additional growth would be a “bonus”. This year I didn’t wait around until basil turned purple — I proactively cut best looking 3-6″ everywhere on the plants and hung them on the sweater drying rack:

There are also oregano sprigs laying across the top of the bars on the left-hand side. The stuff that was too small to hang on its own wound up on a window screen that we laid flat between two chairs.

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Container Garden Update — July 10, 2021

The weather has been cooperative North of Seattle so far this year. No overcast and rainy May. No smoke filled skies from wildfires. We’ll start seeing Harvests Of Things in the next 10-14 days, which is right on pace with when it’s been nice outside for most of the summer.

An overview pic from the “front”. The camera is pointed mostly East, slightly North:

That’s tomatoes on the left, peppers in the center, and basil on the right. On the back left are the Tromboncino zucchini, on the right are cucumbers, and behind the cucumbers are pole beans.

The first cucumbers are nearly ready:

We had a day in the 100’s recently. The basil absolutely loves that, though I’m guessing concrete and the garden area must have been over 110 degrees:

Last year we made a big bag of “Italian Seasoning” with oregano from our raised beds and the basil. I see another big bag or two in our future.

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An Improvised Ultomato Stake Trellis, And An Update To The 2014 A-Frame Trellis Post

I originally posted about the A-frame style trellises in 2014. The external links on that post are dead now, so today’s post includes an update with a few close-ups and explanations of the details of construction.

First the improvised Ultomato trellis:

I’m hoping this is a more stable answer than putting the stakes directly into the boxes — almost every year at least one pepper box has toppled over on a windy day when the plants are heavy with fruit.

This was done with 60″ Ultomato stakes and held together with cable ties. It barely covers two 30″ EarthBoxes lengthwise. The commonly available 48″ stakes would work too, but would only cover one box. The “X’s” at the ends are 24″ wide.

I built this by myself, though an extra set of hands would have been very helpful, especially in the early stages. I wound up creating both “X’s”, then leaning one against a wall and loosely attaching the cross-pieces to the “X” leaning against the wall, then attaching cross-pieces to the “free end” I was holding up. Then I again tightened all the ties once it was standing on its own. It all fell over a few times but eventually it cooperated.

The cross pieces pictured below are separated by 12″, which is the length of the Ultomato clips:

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The 2021 Garden Plant List

By mid-season the garden should look something like:

The 2018 garden in July

We’re trying something new this year — eggplants. (All plant descriptions are by Seattle Tilth unless otherwise noted. My additional “Ed” notes are in italics.)

2 Black Beauty Eggplant, 1 box. (partial Bonnie Plants description): Plants produce pretty, prolific harvests in warm weather—keep them well-watered and harvest often. Pick the fruit before the glossy, dark skin begins to fade. (The color and glossiness of the eggplant determine the best time to harvest, rather than the fruit’s size.) Grows beautifully in garden beds or containers. Add a cage to your eggplant to help support stems when heavy with fruit. Place in full sun, and feed regularly. Matures in 80 days.

4 “Marketmore” Cucumbers, 1 box. (Ed: I’m not sure what exact variety these are. Historically we’ve grown) Marketmore 76 – 63 days. Open pollinated. In the Marketmore series, ‘Marketmore 76’ is very popular with organic growers due to its high level of disease resistance. This dark green slicing variety produces abundant, high quality, uniform fruits about 8 inches long with a wonderful cucumber flavor.

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The Salad Table And Cold Frame

Most years I look at the calendar and say: “I should have started the salad greens two or three weeks ago.” This year I took all of the potential seed packets, picked the things we were most excited about (or the oldest packets regardless), and started the cool-weather greens indoors on January 25th.

Generally that would be fine. The coastal Pacific Northwest has mostly mild Springs, and the seedlings can go outside in February after they’ve been hardened off for a few days. Last week the seedlings forced the issue because they were outgrowing the lighting rig. This coincided with snow in the forecast, so we brought the cold frame out of the back yard and placed it on the sunniest place on the property — along the edge of the front walkway tucked up next to the salad table. We added row cover over the top of the salad table as well to protect the newly transplanted arugula (the row cover is not pictured):

That’s Miner’s Lettuce on the bottom level of the salad table and all around the nearby pots. It’s Northwest Native, high in vitamin C, makes a nice salad base, and it’s been re-seeding itself the last few years. I’m now trying it in other places around the side and back yards to see if it’ll grow there too. The cold frame has Super Sugar Snap peas, some lettuces, dill, and cilantro.

We got more than 6 inches of snow on Thursday and Friday. I’d include a current picture but it’d look like “A Polar Bear In A Snowstorm” — the top of the snow is almost level with the top of the front of the cold frame.

We’d purchased the cold frame a few years ago at a home and garden show, with the thought that we could grow cool weather greens in the back yard with the assistance. Unfortunately the micro climate in the back yard isn’t suitable for spring gardening — the sun level is too low in the horizon so the (East-NorthEast facing) back yard stays frosty well after the front yard warms up. We wouldn’t want to have it partially blocking the front walkway all the time, so the cold frame has mostly been idle the last few years.

But it’s nice to finally use it the cold frame again. The snow has started up again as I write this. Bringing the cold frame to the sunny part of the yard may become an annual Spring tradition.

Container Garden Recap 2020

2020 was not kind to the garden. The weather was marginal for much of the summer and the wildfire smoke finished off a prime part of the growing season.

To quote the 2019 Recap

20-25 pounds of produce per box is pretty normal. (“Normal” is around 30 pounds of tomatoes per box, 10 pounds of peppers, and 25 pounds of tomatillos.)

This year we grew fewer boxes overall, and the yield per box was way down as well:

“Slicing” Cucumber (2 boxes, 6 plants):  22.5 pounds

Taxi Tomato (1/2 box, 1 plant):  9.4 pounds

Black Krim Tomato (1 box, 2 plants):  8.1 pounds

Oregon Spring Tomato (1-1/2 boxes, 3 plants):  23.0 pounds

Roma Tomato (1 box, 2 plants):  8.6 pounds

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Summery Flatbreads And A Few Words About The Garden

It’s been a very mild summer here Vaguely-North-of-Seattle. We finally got a few days that could be called “very warm or hot” strung together and the basil really responded. Happy and productive basil means it’s time for panzanella (last week, didn’t get a picture), flatbreads (more below), and pizza:

The toppings are basil, roasted red pepper puree, and fresh mozzarella that I squeezed as much water as possible out of so it wouldn’t make the pizza soggy.

Recipe: 300g bread flour, 175g water (58% hydration), 6g olive oil (2%), 6g kosher salt, 3/4 tsp instant yeast. Knead and let rise 2-3 hours, folding the dough about halfway through. Preheat oven to 425F. Stretch the dough out over the screen, top with red pepper puree and bake 10 minutes. Top with mozzarella and bake 4-5 more minutes. Remove from the oven. After the pizza has cooled somewhat top with the basil, unless you’re ok with dark green wilted basil, in which case putting the basil onto a hot pie will work fine too.

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The 2020 Vegetables

Our patio “Container Garden” consists of twelve EarthBoxes and three City Pickers. This year we’re going to leave a few idle, or fill them with a rotation of short-season veggies and greens. I don’t feel like this is the right summer to be committing to wrangling a jungle of big plants.

Here’s a picture of the almost-complete garden. you’re looking basically East. The first sun hits the grassy edge of the patio at around 10am and by 11am-1pm (summer day-length dependent) the rear trellises will be in full sunlight:

200516 overview

In the front there are (L-R) –   two empty boxes, a box of Taxi and Oregon Spring tomatoes, a box of two San Marzano Romas, and a box of two Oregon Spring. They’re all determinate and should play well together.

In the mid-left back there are two indeterminate Black Krim tomatoes sharing a box. Behind that under the trellis are Fortex (pole) beans in a City Picker box — 20 plants in a 4 x 5 layout.

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Our First Asparagus Harvest

Three years in, we can now begin to harvest asparagus. For reference, the Space Invader cutting board is 12″ high:

200412 asparagus

The asparagus we started in 2016 ultimately didn’t work out due to poor planning and a bad location, so we tried again in 2018. This time around we have a much sunnier spot and raised beds to help the drainage and soil temperature.

A picture of the raised bed from this Container Garden Update post — June 9, 2019.:

190609 bed 3

Dinner will be asparagus with salmon and small potatoes.

Container Garden Update — August 11, 2019

The few days that we had in the 80’s didn’t last. Here in the north Seattle area it’s back to 70’s, overcast, and spotted showers.

190811 harvest 1

(Clockwise from top left — Roma tomatoes, Taxi, Oregon Cherry, Tromboncino zucchini, Carmen peppers, Oregon Spring tomatoes, Sun Gold.)

We harvested the Tromboncino at a relatively small size because there are two other fruits on the plant in the same place — the harvested fruit was directly between the two pictured here:

190811 tromboncino

We’ve found that three fruits that close together rarely ends well, so we pulled the one that was in the center.

On the other sheet tray is 2.5 pounds of Marketmore 76 cucumbers and 2.5 pounds of Fortex beans:

190811 harvest 2

We found three of those cucumbers after we thought we’d already found them all.

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