Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kicking The Potted Fig Outside

Over at Garden Rant one of the blogs I visit, I stumbled on a sad article. Turns out that Michele is growing tired of lugging her potted fig back inside for the winter. The 4 figs a year she gets from the tree is also contributing to kicking the fig outside and back into the ground.

Here is some unsolicited advice I have for Michele if she decides to rethink kicking the fig out.

1. Make sure your potted fig isn't root bound in its container. If there are too many roots the fig will not produce well. Even two year old figs can send out crazy amounts of roots and become root bound. A yearly pruning of the root ball will help.

2. Make sure your fig gets even and steady watering all summer long. Drought is one of the main reasons why baby figs created in the spring drop during the summer. They become hollow and rubbery and once this happens no amount of water will rescue the aborted baby fig.

3. Set your container fig out as soon as possible for your region. Here in the northeast you can put the fig out in March provided that the temperatures doesn't go below 30 degrees. The more time the fig has outside the more figs it will produce.

And finally if you are going to plant the fig in ground make sure that either you wrap the fig for the winter or bury it. Those that think the fig will regrow from the roots once spring comes are correct. But this isn't enough time for the fig to produce anything. Although they are prolific growers starting from zero each spring is a sure fire way of guaranteeing an October harvest of small green lifeless figs.

Hope you change your mind Michele.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Late September Fig Harvest

This time of year is when the figs hurry up and ripen overnight. All the rain we've received this summer has surely helped the figs along. Figs love even and consistent watering the entire growing season, the end result is plump sweet figs. Here are some Gino Figs and Italian Everbearing I picked today.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Deboning A Whole Chicken

After watching Jacques Pepin debone an entire chicken in less than five minutes I felt the need to recreate this at home. Watch the video 5 or more times and then attempt it yourself. It was fairly easy, just make sure you have a sharp deboning knife available.

Here is the master at work

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How To Deal With Slugs Who Feast On Your Artichokes

Recently Tony posted about how his Artichokes were under attack by slugs. Tony decided to use a slug repellant as well as an insecticidal soap. While those are both good methods to go about it I chose a different way. Like Tony my Romanesco artichoke was under attack by slugs. What I do in these slug situations is to use horticultural DE (Diatomaceous Earth). DE shreds the insects tender skin as it comes in contact with it. It is safe for humans to be in contact with it as DE only impacts small insects (Humans eat DE every time they eat flour or grains). One application resolved my slug problem and my artichokes are now slug free.

DE is excellent for use on other tender leafy greens or basically any plant that is susceptible to insect pests. Please remember that DE doesn't discern between good insects and bad insects so be aware of that. DE is a great alternative for pesticides when you don't really need them. You also have to reapply it after rainfall

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pac Choi Harvest

This spring I decided to sow some Pac Choi seeds I forgot I bought a few years ago from Kitazawa seed company. While not a traditional or native Italian brassica, I was still pretty happy with the end results, as it was a fast grower and gives you plenty of heads up before it bolts. I think this is a great broccoli or cabbage substitute as it was fairly pest free and grew very quickly (45 days)

One method of cooking it is simply grilling it. Another way we prepare it is to break it down into individual leaves, boil them in salted water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and cool in an ice bath. Once cooled you can freeze the leaves in ziploc bags for later use or simply sautee them with garlic and olive oil.

Asparagus Ferning Out

Most people don't know that if you let asparagus spears keep on growing they eventually become tall thin ferns. Here is a pic I took last week showing how tall the asparagus spears have gotten.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Ways To Store Your Fig Trees For The Winter And Why I Prefer The Zombie Method

When it comes to fig trees and northern climates you have three options when it comes to storing your fig trees for the winter:

Container Growing
Grow fig tree in container and bring inside when winter comes

Tree Wrapping
Grow Fig tree in ground when winter comes wrap the fig tree with burlap and other insulating materials.

Burial Method a.k.a Zombie Method
Grow Fig tree in ground when winter comes Bury the fig tree under ground (I call this the zombie method because you bury them in winter and they 'rise' in the spring)

Now I have 8 fig trees in containers and 4 trees that I keep outside. The container figs are pretty simple to store for the winter. After the first frost comes and burns the leaves off the fig tree they are then ready to be stored in either a garage or a dark basement.

For the other 4 fig trees I use the burial method. These outdoor figs are grown in the ground from April until November. Once the cold weather comes and burns the leaves off the trees I take a spade shovel and dig a foot from the base of the trunk all around the tree. Once I've severed enough roots and the root ball becomes free I lean the tree to one side and begin severing the bottom roots. I repeat this step on the opposite side until the tree is able to be lifted root ball and all from the location it has been growing. Don't worry fig trees can take heavy pruning of their root systems. As long as you don't damage the central core of the root ball the fig won't feel a thing.

Once you have the tree free you can perform some light pruning in order to make the tree more compact and make it ready for burying it underground. I like to bury the fig tree in my raised beds as the soil is easy to dig and work with. I dig down about a foot and a half or more depending on how large the fig tree is. You want to make sure that the trees root-ball and trunk will be covered by at least 12 inches of soil so the freezing temps stay at bay while it's buried.

Here are some photos of me digging up my zombie fig trees that I buried this past November. They are all healthy and the buds were greening even though they've been buried for 5 months. Figs are hardy and can take being buried as long as they are covered with enough soil.

Friday, April 15, 2011

6 Month Old Romaine Lettuce Still Going Strong

After 6 months in the cold frame the Romaine Lettuce is starting to take off with the warmer spring temperatures. In the coldest winter months the 5 inch plants just went into a dormant state and pretty much didn't grow at all. The cold frame acted as hibernation chamber for the lettuce greens. This helps get a big jump start in the spring since the plants are already a third of the way grown.

Purple Asparagus: Asparagi Viola

Like clockwork my purple asparagus are now coming up. I will let these grow and fern out until next season. The longer you let asparagus grow and fern out the better results you'll get. As their root systems become stronger you'll get more production out of the plant. It's best to let them fern out for at least three years. I can't resist the temptation so I may break a spear off when I get home.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Romanesco Artichoke Update: It's Still Alive After 1 Year

That Artichoke seedling I started back in March of 2010 grew all summer long up until fall. The cold weather then burned up all the leaves and I trimmed the remaining leaves back to the soil. I thought for sure that the artichoke was dead. Well this spring I noticed that the artichoke root started sending leaves up through the soil. Then I started to do some research and found out that artichokes can die back to the ground in the winter but will then come back up again in the spring.

I started feeding it with a 10-10-10 solution and it seems to be doing well. I have one burned leaf but I attribute that to getting some of the fertilizer on the leaf. So these Romanesco artichokes seem pretty hardy, I think I will start a few more seeds and dedicate a 4x4 bed to just Artichokes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What A Difference A Few Seasons Make

So this is what my garden looked like back in 2008
And this is what it looks like today. I removed the pine trees that shaded most of the area and fenced in the the whole lot. I added more raised beds and a designated cold frame box. Along the wooden fence I have 6 grape vines, and in the upper left hand corner of the fence I'm going to plant 6 fig trees. I have a busy spring ahead of me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Home Depot's Seductive Nursery Section. Buyer Beware

This past weekend I was at home depot browsing for some landscaping items. As I often do when I'm at home depot I wander into the nursery section just to see what they are offering. Now it takes quite a bit of restraint browsing that section and not purchasing something but I prevailed. However looking at all the veggie seedlings they had on sale I noticed that they had quite a large selection of tomato and pepper plants. Now here in the north east you basically have to wait until mothers day to set your summer plants out otherwise they will succumb to our vicious early morning frosts. Now I know this and if you're reading this blog you probably know this as well. But for the casual person looking at those tempting tomato plants they may be unaware that it's too early to be buying tomato plants in late march. Now unless they are buying these plants and then sticking them under some grow lights then I can see that being feasible even though the tomato plants that were on sale were at least a foot tall. My worry is that someone sees tomato plants at home depot and then assumes that since home depot is selling them then it must be time to plant them in the backyard. Then when they visit that plant later in the afternoon and see it wilted to the ground and yellowed they might become jaded and curse gardening off for good. I asked a home depot employee if they cover the plants at night since there is no roof in the outside nursery, he said they don't cover anything.

So does Home Depot just let the summer plants die on a cold spring night?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Home For My Knives

I got tired of having my nice knives shoved in a drawer and being mishandled so I picked up a Magnetic knife holder. It was easy to install and now my knives are readibly accessible at a moments notice.

MIU 90009 France Knife Holder, Magnetic, Stainless, 20-inch

I also picked up this nifty Knife sharpener which lets you sharpen your knives edge in a few minutes. I thought it was gimmicky at first but it was so cheap that I decided to pick it up anyway. After trying it on a couple knives and doing the paper test I was left impressed. You run it along the blade and in a few swipes your knife is back in business.

AccuSharp 001 Knife Sharpener

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cold Frame Protects Plants During Winter

I'm once again surprised at how well my Juwel Cold Frame has protected my seedlings. Back in October I transplanted Romaine & Black Seeded Simpson lettuce seedlings into the cold frame. After 4 months of enduring a Pennsylvania winter the lettuce still looks great. I watered the cold frame maybe three times the entire winter. I'm still surprised how well the structure insulates the greens from the freezing winter temperatures at night.

Today I took some photos of the cold frame with the 2010 October transplants. Can't wait to transplant these into my raised beds in a few weeks.

Last years results http://www.italiangardening.com/2010/04/cold-frame-winter-garden-results.html