Monday, May 23, 2011

May 22, 2011

Another post-dated post. I haven't seemed to master the art of working in the garden most of the day and writing a blog post the same evening. Charlie and I came in from the garden at about 6:00 pm, cleaned up, walked the dog, stopped by the grocery store (it's within walking distance so part of the dog walk), came home cooked dinner, cleaned the kitchen and then that was about all she wrote for the evening, lol.

We got the two top dressed beds turned under and raked, assembled the bean trellises, weeded, and planted carrots in bed 1 and marigolds at the ends of beds 2 and 3.

April-planted onions - carrots are at the back

fall-planted garlic

Garden view from the driveway

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quick Update for May 21, 2011

Not looking too much different yet...

Yesterday's morning activities and errands seemed to expand into the afternoon of their own accord and before I knew it, most of the day was gone with very little gardening progress to show for it.

Which is why at 4:00 pm yesterday Charlie and I were shoveling mushroom compost out of the truck in the rain in order to top dress some beds and make some headway on the list of tasks still to be done for this weekend.
beds top dressed with fresh mushroom compost

I also managed to make some progress removing that last patch of sod near the driveway (Charlie had gotten it started a few days ago).

The salad mix is coming along now that the weather has progressed from frigid to merely chilly

hurry and grow, I would like to eat you!

The peas have been kind of a non-starter this year. We've grown peas without any difficulties in the past so I suspect that the varieties I've chosen this year are not a good match.
The Sugar Star snap peas have been planted twice (they occupy the blank spot in the photo below) and, with the exception of three plants from the second planting, failed to come up both times. The Avalanche Snow pea is currently doing a little better.

the rather pathetic pea patch

So now I'm off to run some hopefully shorter errands today and then get out in the garden to finish up the weekend to-do list before the work week starts up again. I'm running behind on planting, having gotten distracted with some other non-vegetable garden projects.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Rhubarb Deflowering

Last week after yet another of the very large, hairy dog's many daily constitutionals, Charlie and I rounded the corner near our garden and happened to notice that the rhubarb had a large flower stalk emerging from the center of the plant. Hmmm, that's interesting, I thought to myself, I don't remember the rhubarb ever flowering before. Is it supposed to flower? Better go check the Google...

As it turns out, flowering rhubarb is not, as Martha Stewart would say, 'a good thing'.
According to the oracle of Google, rhubarb may flower for various reasons:
- the selection may be prone to bolting
- plant maturity (older plants are more prone to bolting)
- low nutrients in soil
- weather (plants stressed due to drought or heat may be more likely to bolt)
- excessive crowding

Given that we've just experienced the wettest, coldest April on record for quite some time here in the PNW, I think the weather options can be ruled out. I fertilized and then mulched with mushroom compost last year so I think the plants are good nutrition-wise. The plants were here when we bought this house about 12 years ago so I suppose maturity could be a factor.

I'm going to have to go with 'crowding' as the primary cause since we moved the rhubarb from the ground near the sidewalk to one of the raised beds two years ago when we were removing the horrible yew bushes near the back fence (the rhubarb had to be moved to avoid being run over by equipment), and the plants have really flourished in the new location (most likely due to better summer irrigation but the better soil and mushroom compost has surely played a role as well) and are larger than ever but the roots are now constrained by the sides of the raised beds.

Allowing rhubarb to flower greatly reduces production, since the plants biological mission to reproduce and blanket the earth with rhubarb seed will have been accomplished at this point and it doesn't really have much incentive to continue to work at growing stalks as a result, thank you very much. Therefore, it's very important to remove the flower stalks as soon as possible in order to ensure the ongoing availability of delicious rhubarb stalks for as long as possible.

Here Garden Guy demonstrates how to successfully deflower your rhubarb:

hold the stalk and cut near the base*...

and remove

be sure to look for smaller flower stalks hiding in the leaves...

and cut those out as well

You can check here for more handy tips about growing rhubarb.

Gardening with Ciscoe had an interesting looking rhubarb recipe featured on a recent show: Rustic Rhubarb Tarts. I bought some puff pastry the other day and plan on making them this weekend. I'll be sure to report back on how they turn out!

Oh, and an update about my unfortunate new Crimson Red rhubarb start that I ordered this year from Territorial Seed: I called the very helpful folks at Territorial and told them about my rhubarb failure and they refunded my money no questions asked since they were sold out of rhubarb starts and there were no more available from the grower.

* As you might suspect, this post was full of tempting opportunities for some double entendre fun. I hope you will appreciate the rare display of self-control and maturity that prevailed. Barely.