Cool Season Crops Wrap Up

Agridude - Garden Profile and PaulSpring is here in San Diego and it’s time for me to write the wrap up about my first time growing cool season crops.  The picture was taken in mid January.  The garden was full of nice green healthy plants.  The weather was still pretty ‘cold’ in January (I know, I’m a sissy from MN who can’t tolerate cold weather anymore).  The chard did really well as you can see, and the broccoli was very productive.

Agridude - Gardener of the MonthIn early January, I received the Gardener of the Month sign. Grant had come down and asked if we ever had the sign in our garden, and two days later it was. There weren’t too many people with gardens full of cool season crops but I still felt good getting the award.  When the sign was moved 2 weeks ago, it looked like a gopher hole and I was looking for a tunnel and realized it was from the sign.Agridude - Right Half of Garden

Here is the right half of my garden in the middle of February.  You can see that the lettuce is doing great.  I pick it every other day and can eat a salad a day with it.  The chard is huge, and you can see a brussel sprout plant with monster leaves behind the white planter box.  This plant grew big, but the brussel sprouts didn’t stay compact, they were ‘open’.  We ended up taking this plant out since we weren’t getting any sprouts.  Below is a picture of the one plant that gave us good sprouts.

Agridude - Brussel Sprouts Close UpAgridude - Left half of GardenHere is a shot of the left half of the garden.  The picture above is of the plant in the lower left corner of this picture.  This plant gave us 30 or so brussel sprouts before the aphids took over.  We just ripped it out 2 weeks ago.  You can see the artichoke plant is growing out of control.  After clearing out some of the lower leaves, I realized there are 3 plants growing there…and now it is starting to fruit.  The broccoli is also doing well.  It is continuing to give us side shoots.  We eat broccoli at least twice a week and it tastes delicious picked fresh out of the garden.  I’ll post pictures below.

Agridude - Broccoli Side shootsAgridude - ArtichokeHere is a picture of our romanesco broccoli growing.  This tasted great!  We used this recipe to cook it. I will definitely be growing this again next fall.Agridude - Romanesco Broccoli

Next season I will not be growing cauliflower.  It only puts out the single head, attracts aphids and other bugs, and frankly, I don’t really care for it.  I need to remember that if I don’t like it, no need to grow it, especially if it brings bad bugs to the garden.

I’m still having issues with gophers… They are attacking my onions now, and have taken out more lettuce and swiss chard.  No matter how many I trap, there’s always more.The photos below are of a onion that just has the leaves above, and two dead gophers.

Agridude - Gopher Ate OnionAgridude - Gopher 2Agridude - Gopher 1

I should mention that I bought an egg timer to help make hard boiled eggs out of the eggs we get from the garden. I bought this on amazon to make it easy to know when they’re done. If you eat a lot of hard boiled eggs, you should get this:

Spring Planning and Aquaponics Phase 1

It’s still snowing and below freezing here in zone 4b, south central Minnesota, but it’s definitely time to get on the ball planning for the full exposure growing season!  We’ll be doing two main gardens, one at a relative’s house in Hastings (800+ sq ft) and another at our community garden plot in Saint Paul (300 sq ft – just got our confirmation Wednesday!)  I may also try a few things on our balcony, which is mostly shaded except for one corner which sees full sun – I’m thinking mostly greens/herbs and maybe a cucumber in a wine barrel or grow bag.


We’ve got seeds!  I went into the season with a ton of saved tomato and herb seeds, and not much else, so I spent some time and hard earned cash over at the Seed Savers Exchange website getting some serious edibles and companion plants.  We’ll be doing a couple of “three sisters” style plots this year, as well as a ton of brassicas, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and other greens.


I decided to play around with some different seed starting media, rather than buying a mix. I started out with way too much moisture in all the mixes, so I had some mold early on (these seedlings were started just under 3 days ago), but they seem to be doing better now.  I decided to start in a mix of 100% vermiculite and then up pot to an organic potting soil mixed with vermiculite and coconut coir once the true leaves start to come in.


I set up a starting station with a Super Sprouter 2 Tray seedling heat mat, a Hydrofarm Jump Start 64W T5HO single bulb fixture, and a Hydrofarm Digital Thermostat to keep the temperature under control and consistent.  With just over $100 invested and the capacity to start 140 seeds at a time, I feel like I will be saving about that much by not buying starts this year alone, as well as the added benefit of having starts to give away to friends!  This also lets me grow what I want to, not just what is available at the local nurseries.


In the meantime I got our living space rearranged a bit with the goal in mind of setting up my initial aquaponics “tester”.  I will be using a 30 gallon all glass aquarium on the bottom shelf of its stand with a 50 gallon rubbermaid HDPE tote from a local home improvement store (under $20.)  On order is a 300 gph (gallon per hour) water pump, necessary to lift the water nearly 4 feet up into the grow bed.


I’ll be growing in expanded clay pellets purchased from my local hydroponics store – this was the pricy bit at just over $30 per 50lb bag, but it is inert and reusable for future projects.  The advantage of this is that it will be very easy to move plants around without damaging them, and it is much lighter weight than the equivalent of gravel/pebbles.  It should also be significantly cleaner than any of the cheaper options, saving me some work up front.

After the pump arrives I will start assembling plumbing hardware, including a ball valve to limit the flow of water.  I will also start building my bell siphon, which will eliminate the need for a pump timer in my flood and drain system.  I will also be purchasing a 4-bulb shop light fitted with full spectrum fluorescent tubes (4′ length) and hooking up some sort of pulley system above the grow bed – possibly ceiling mounted.

If you’re interested in seeing what some other folks are doing on a similar scale, both PhillyAquaponics and ImpossibleFrontflip over on YouTube have a great series of videos on the subject – it is really incredible how many people out there are playing around with this idea, on a wide range of scales.  There are also some great discussions to read over at Backyard Aquaponics, and the crazy awesome folks over at Permies even have an aquaponic forum.

Also on my mind have been wicking beds – a pretty ingenious way to have a low maintenance garden and even use your aquaponics/aquarium water to feed more plants.

And finally, I had a good time playing around with Garden Planner Online, a really easy (and free to try) piece of software to design your garden by the square foot or square inch (or square meter, etc) – it even lets you print your garden plans to pdf so you can save and look them over later.

Good luck with your spring planning!

Omelets and Greens

gARDEN 041Today I harvested lots of greens from the indoor planter box. In the pile of greens contains baby swiss chard, lettuce, basil, spinach, and cilantro.

I used the baby basil and spinach to make a 3 egg omelet.  The taste of the spinach and basil was amazing.  The crispness of the spinach and spiciness of the basil went nicely together.  I turned the rest of the greens into a side salad for my eggs.

gARDEN 042To make the omelet I used 3 fresh Larry Schultz’s organic eggs.  I will let one of the masters of french cooking take it from here!

Vegetable Harvest Pictures

Agridude - Broccoli and MeSince I am so far behind on blogging, I decided to post a few vegetable harvest pictures for you.  Here is a picture of the main head of one of the broccoli plants.  As you can see, it is bigger than my head!  All three of our broccoli plants grew these beasts.  I had to go to MN for Christmas and had Kelly take two up to her families for Christmas dinner.  I watched this video by Pat Welsh on how to grow great broccoli. She says the key to growing any brassica family plants is to add humic acid.  I asked my local nursery if they had any, and I ended up buying some soil conditioner that was 25% humic acid.  My broccoli plants have done very well and are much larger than most plants in other peoples plots.

Agridude - Purple and Yellow CauliflowerWhen I was at the nursery, I found seedlings of purple and yellow cauliflower.  This was a great find for someone who is a huge Minnesota Vikings fan.  I planted two of each, but one of the purple plants didn’t do anything so I ripped it up.  I brought some of this home for Christmas to share with the family.  I didn’t know there were any colors for cauliflower other than white…looking forward to growing more next year.

Agridude - EggsAs I have mentioned before, the OB Community Garden has 32 chickens in a fenced in plot.  I have been fortunate to receive quite a few eggs from them.  The chickens lay all different color eggs, white, various shades of brown, and a green egg.  They are all different sizes too.  It is nice that I no longer have to buy eggs from the grocery store and that I know they were raised one block from my house.

Agridude - Beet and LettuceHere is the lone beet that we harvested.  I had never eaten one before and quickly learned that the juice stains very quickly.  I really enjoy the leaves in salads too.  I am going to post a few more pictures below.  There isn’t much to say about them so I’ll just put up the pictures.


Agridude - Eggs Peas Broccoli Romaine KaleAgridude - RadishAgridude - PeasAgridude - Broccoli and RomaineAnother thing that I am going to start to do is post some links to products on amazon.  Today they have a great deal on a dyson d40 vacuum with accessories.  I recently bought a Dyson AM04 Hot + Cool Heater/Table Fan, Blue fan that works great.  I’m guessing that this vacuum is also amazing: