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Archive for January, 2013

winter carrots-1-18-13-BLOGI have to tell you about the wonderful carrots we are eating right out of our garden this winter. The carrots you see in the photo were pulled January 18, swished in a bucket of water to take the mud off and photographed right in the garden. We had our first snow of the year the night before and you can see that didn’t bother them. The varieties I planted are Danvers 126 (on the left in the photo) and Chantenay Red Core (on the right). The seeds came from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. In their catalog both varieties were listed as having a blunt end, with Danvers growing to 6½’’ long and 2’’at the shoulders and Chantenay 5½’’ long and 2½’’ at the shoulders. I have done a taste test and looked at both varieties side-by-side and I have to say, unless I was really looking for differences, I wouldn’t be able to tell which was which. One was ever so slightly sweeter, but they were both so sweet, it didn’t matter. The carrots of both varieties varied in size. I cut the larger ones into carrot sticks to eat raw and put the small ones into soups and cooked dishes. A favorite snack (or quick lunch) of mine is to cut carrots into sticks and use crunchy peanut butter as a dip. Delicious!

Carrots and rye-in-rows-11-22-12 -BLOGTo have all these carrots available now took some planning. They were planted back on June 27 into a bed that I had harvested rye from, cutting it at maturity for grain and straw. The planning, however, went back further than that. The rye was planted on November 3, 2011. Knowing that I intended to plant carrots next, I made furrows close together with a hoe and planted the seed in the furrows. Otherwise, I would have just broadcast the seed and chopped it in with my cultivator to cover it. When rye and wheat are harvested at full maturity, the roots are already on their way out and the soil is soft. The stubble was in rows and I just hoed between those stubble rows and sowed the carrot seeds, covering lightly. The brown stubble that was left in place gradually decomposed, feeding the carrots. I had to be diligent with watering and replant in a couple areas that had not-so-good germination, but I have been rewarded well. This photo was taken on November 22—Thanksgiving. On the left is the carrot bed we are eating from now and the rye that I planted on October 23. You can see the rows in anticipation for next year’s carrots.

Although these carrots were outside the part of the garden that I keep intense records on, I couldn’t resist finding out how much was really there. Of course, I wasn’t going to dig the whole bed all at once to find out. Neither was I going to weigh each carrot I harvested, something I would have done if I was keeping those intense records. Instead, I dug carrots from a 2’ strip for each variety. The bed is 4’ wide, so I was measuring how much was in 8 ft². From that measurement I calculated how much it would work out to for a 100 ft² planting. The results were 115 lb/100 ft² for the Danvers and 145 lb/100 ft² for the Chantenay. I think these are accurate estimates and the yield could have even been a bit higher. I had randomly harvested some carrots previously, so some could have already been taken from these areas. In this trial Chantenay yielded more than Danvers, however since I wasn’t paying too much attention to details (such as randomly harvesting earlier) I wouldn’t say that one variety out yielded the other—yet. Maybe I’ll be more serious about it next year.

Once carrots (and other root vegetables) get hit with frost they sweeten up. Eliot Coleman writes about that in Four Season Harvest. For that reason I only grow carrots for fall and winter harvest these days. Sort of like enjoying strawberries when they are in season. Summer carrots just don’t taste as good and there are so many other things to be eating from the garden in the summer. I need to plant the carrots so that they will be mature by mid-October. Keep in mind that once the nights cool down, growth slows. After mid-October they are just being held in cold storage in the garden until we eat them. If you have been following my blog you know I have trouble with voles. One end of this bed has had some vole damage, but not the devastation you would expect. That could be because I didn’t mulch these carrots. If we were to have harsher weather than we do, I would mulch with leaves, but not until the cold weather really sets in. I want the voles to find other winter homes before I cover the carrots.

At Christmas I usually give sauerkraut to some friends and family. This year I hadn’t made sauerkraut. I was celebrating the carrots that were bursting from that bed that I had tended all year, so everyone received carrots. I’m not sure they were as excited receiving the carrots as I was giving them, but oh well. Maybe I’ll get sauerkraut made for them next year—with carrots in it.

If you would like to be eating carrots like this in mid-winter, keep that in mind as you make your garden plan for this year. I actually make a note on my garden map to plant the rye in rows in that bed so I don’t forget. You’ve missed the window of opportunity to have rye planted in rows for this year, but maybe you can sneak some carrots in somewhere. Make sure to plant them early enough and water well. Good luck!Homeplace Earth

Learn more about winter carrots at http://www.motherearthnews.com/permaculture/winter-carrots.aspx

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your garden book-BLOGThe seed catalogs have arrived and as you recover from the holidays you are getting excited about this year’s garden. I always have the best garden in January—meaning the one I plan in January. Things don’t always go as planned, but that’s to be expected. There are lots of garden books on your bookshelves, the library and the bookstore to guide you, but did you ever wish there was a garden book written just for you? It would be specific to your garden with your own crops, varieties, planting times and records of yields. Although it will take a little work on your part, you can have exactly that.

Fortunately for you, now is the best time to start writing that book. Actually it is a notebook you will be putting together, unless you prefer to put everything on the computer. I prefer pencil and paper myself and a book that I can hold in my hands (while sitting in a comfortable chair, possibly beside the wood stove). I do have some things on the computer, but they are printed off to go into my garden notebook. If you missed the back-to-school sales to stock up on 3-ring binders, paper, dividers, file folders, etc, these things are on sale again as people organize their financial affairs for taxes. The file folders are for your previous years’ records. Store those in your file cabinet or a cardboard file box that you can pick up while you are at the office supply store.

garden records-BLOGIn my garden plan video I show you how to put together a complete garden plan using worksheets that are on the CD that comes with the DVD. On the resource page of my website you will find a list of the sections suggested for your notebook. You might have ideas for additional sections. You will need to make an inventory of the seeds you already have before you order new ones. Put that in the seed section of your notebook. You will need to know what crops you are planting and where, so you will need a garden map. After consulting your seed inventory and garden map, make a list of your crops and what needs to be ordered.  Before you send off your seed order you need to figure how many seeds you need. One of the worksheets on the CD helps you do that.

Knowing when to plant and when to expect a harvest is essential to be efficient at growing your food. The CD has a worksheet to help you determine those dates. Once you have the dates you can record them on the Plant / Harvest Schedule, also a worksheet on the CD and available as a free PDF on my website.  Ideally you will fill out a copy of that schedule as you plan it and an extra copy to fill in as the season goes along. It is always good to know what actually happened. Make notes that will be useful later.

If you are serious about feeding yourself from your garden, you should know how much you are producing. At first it just might be that you know how much you planted and if it was enough or not enough. Make a note of that. If you are canning, freezing, or drying, you could write down how many pints or quarts of everything you put up. Even a notation on your calendar would do. At the end of the season you could total everything up and the calendar provides your beginning and ending harvest dates.

However, I want to encourage everyone to eat as much as they can out of their garden all year long. As good as it is to know how much is coming out of your garden, it’s not fun to count or weigh everything. So don’t. You could only keep more detailed records on the crops that you are studying. Or, just weigh out the harvest on a portion of your crop, and since you know the area you have planted, it is easy to estimate your total harvest.

temperatures 2012precipation 2012You can keep track of the climate in your garden by having temperature and precipitation records for the year. That is really handy to refer to in later years when you remember something doing particularly good (or bad) in a previous year and you think it might have been weather related. There are worksheets for that on the CD, also. In the weather section of my notebook, I like to include news reports of abnormal weather events to remind me of what was going on.

What varieties of each crop you grow could make a difference, so make sure to include that in your notes. If you can bear to cut up your seed catalogs (or better yet, cut up last year’s seed catalogs) you can cut out the information and pictures of the crops you chose and include them in your notebook. Highlight what it was that made you choose those varieties. It is easy to forget. You will, no doubt, see things in magazines or on the internet that you would like to try in your garden or ideas will pop into your head. Put that in your notebook in the Ideas! section.

Take photographs and put them in your garden notebook or an album devoted to your garden. I don’t mean keep them on your phone or in a digital file on your computer—actually have prints made. Remember, you are putting together a book here. Make sure there is a picture of you in there. You will be surprised how fast things change and it is nice to have a visual record. You might even write a summary of your garden experiences for the year and include it with your photos. In the summary include some yield figures of the things you are paying particular attention to, lessons you’ve learned (both good and bad), and anything else that you think is a highlight.

Homeplace EarthIf you do all this you will be well on your way with record keeping. Some of you out there might have your own system. I invite you to share your ideas here.

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