Friday, January 5, 2018

Free Tree Kale (Perennial Collards)

Whilst battling against fuzzy feline garden invaders today, I cut back my perennial collards. That means I have plenty to share. 

If you live in the Fairfield area and would like some for your own garden, please respond to this Craigslist post and come by. Otherwise I might eat them all... Perhaps even raw!

Thanks!
-Jay

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cucumber and Transplant Greenhouse


Soon after moving into the house we now live in, a friend from church offered me a greenhouse. I was both grateful and humbled. It took a while before I was able to clean our backyard up enough to place the greenhouse in its current location. Once that was done, it took some time determining what kinds of containers I could use for the greenhouse. Initially a friend said that he could provide some shallow containers, which probably would not have been the best in the long-run.




Note the west-side shade. This is intentional to prolong my spring transplants.




Coconut Fiber (Coir) Blocks in my new stock tank.




A view from the front door. Still need to move blocks and fertilizer! (=


After finding that more shallow containers could not be procured I got tired of having the greenhouse mostly vacant, so I purchased a (nearly) 6’ long by 2’ wide feed stock tank – like the kind used for providing water for livestock. With that done, I then had my father purchase some coco peat fiber blocks or coir from Santa Rosa. These were reconstituted while I sprouted my transplants. Though I normally do not do transplant, sometimes it is the only way to get plants large enough in the time I have. The transplants were potted into the stock tank about a month ago and, despite our diminishing sunlight this fall, they are still growing well.




Carosello Growing in compost, but losing ground to woodlice.



Some plants have been chewed up so much, that they needed to be removed.


One unfortunate thing that I did do was I sifted some compost to help in feeding the small plants. The compost itself was not bad, but the pill bugs or woodlice that came along in the compost decided to start chewing on my plants. I had no idea how destructive they could be! Once they had damaged most of my cucumber plants enough that I was getting pretty desperate the inspiration finally hit me. I could just sprinkle some diatomaceous earth on top of the soil. At last – an organic solution for self-contained invertebrate pests in the greenhouse!



Diatomaceous Earth may not look pretty, but it works!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fridge Tomatoes


The only place tomatoes have a semi-permanent home in my kitchen is on top of the refrigerator.


July 12th




July 25th


While I would never put home-grown tomatoes into the refrigerator because the flavor suffers dramatically, store-bought tomatoes may have already been chilled, and as a result – have poor flavor. Though most tomato connoisseurs can only describe the significant degradation of flavor in qualitative terms, a 2016 study demonstrated that there are actual chemical changes that take place when tomatoes are stored at cold temperatures. The study does a good job of demonstrating to even the skeptics why you should never put your tomatoes in the refrigerator.



September 6th



September 9th


From late June until now, there was only one week where we needed to purchase a few tomatoes. We use about 5-7 pounds of tomatoes each week. There were several weeks where the tomatoes would not fit on the refrigerator. We sold the excess and made at least $40. In fact - selling tomatoes enabled of my children to buy a pet! If I were to quantify only the amount we ate in monetary value, it would be between $80-$150 if tomatoes were only $1 per pound.  However, money alone cannot quantify the qualitative benefits of a meaty, slightly salty, savory, fully-flavored home-grown red ripe tomato.




September 11th





September 13th




September 14th


 
September 18th




October 7th



Please excuse the dust and mess - that is just part of life! (=

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tree Kale or Perennial Collards?

For years I have been overly suspicious of the Brassica family. Growing up, I remember seeing cabbage butterflies annihilate cabbage plants and not caring much for the taste of coleslaw or sauerkraut. Later, the only thing I correlate cabbage with is boiled cabbage, which gives me indigestion. The few experiences I had with growing Brassicas included growing broccoli and Brussel Sprouts, which were a lot of hard work for a meager crop. Then a few years back I heard tales of a super-rich nutrient-packed vegetable called Kale. A good friend of ours even introduced us to Kale chips – an incredibly tasty and healthy snack whose flavor was reminiscent of a fine cheese. Recently, with moving to California and having easy access to cheap kale, I thought I would give it a try - and I started liking it.


My Tree Chard/Perennial Kale - March 3rd


While consuming kale in soups last winter, I read a book that mentioned perennial kale – and I was hooked. The idea of having a plant I did not have to re-plant year after year really appealed to me. You mean that I can access a healthy vegetable any time I want – with minimal effort? You bet!



March 25th after a light rain.



Perennial Kale, April 25th


Being the resourceful individual that I am, I presented my desire to identify a local source for some perennial kale to individuals at my local county garden extension class and happened to find that a master who possessed some tree collards that he was happy to share with me. It turns out that they are that tree kale and perennial collards are the same thing.



Tree Collards in May



It looks like I got the greenhouse in May as well.


So far so good. I read that tree kale/perennial collards require a lot of calcium, so I made sure to add a lot of crushed egg shells in the hole where I deposited each plant. They have done incredibly well. The only other thing I would have done, if I had a chance, would be to stake them. That being said, the location that I planted them, they were able to lean up against the fence, then against the greenhouse.



Perennial Kale in June - lower leaves do die out a bit as the plant matures.



Fuzzy Cabbage Butterfly Caterpillar



Some of the caterpillars were less fuzzy, with a white stripe.


I believe if I continue to plant them further down the fence line, like I plan to do next spring, I will need to stake them. Other than the plants getting a little too large mid-summer, they have been relatively simple and easy to care for. Also – I still don’t care much for the cabbage butterflies that the plants attract to the yard. In the spring, it took some concerted effort to fight against the caterpillars, but by the summer it paid off – when spiders, small wasps and other critters began helping me by preying on the caterpillars.


Tree Chard, August - at just above 5' tall.


I take as many of the lower leaves as I want, whenever I want. We have enjoyed our collards a lot in both soups and stir-fries, though I have not tried making kale chips yet. As for their care, I occasionally add some additional egg shells and nitrogen or compost and watch them grow. I'm excited to see them change color this winter - as I have heard they turn a reddish-purple as the days get shorter. So far, I am an extremely proud owner of some Tree Kale… or Perennial Collards.


Middle Perennial Kale is just reaching 6' by September

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Neighborhood Farm Stand

So, I happened to be walking in my parents neighborhood Sebastopol, California and came upon this delightful little vegetable stand.





A home-made farm stand in one's neighborhood is probably the next best thing to having veggies grown in your own backyard.