Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Soil Blocking 101: A Pictorial

It happens every time. Me: “I’m going to peak in on the backyard; I’ll only be a few minutes.” Six hours later and this is what I did… Tada...

Get out your gardening gloves and let’s get blocking! First thing needed is soil. I use what Martha uses to start her seeds, Vermont Compost Company Fort Vee Potting Soil.

My husband bought me four 60 quart bags for my birthday. I’m down to two bags and I’m a little concerned.

Vermont Compost products can be found on several sites online or you can use your favorite seed starting mix.

Next, my weapon of choice is the 2" by 2" soil block maker. It produces 4 perfect little squares.

I own two other sizes: a 3/4" by 3/4" soil blocker that is suitable for small seeds like lettuce or oregano. I also own a behemoth 4” soil blocker(another birthday present). This big guy comes in handy when your seedling has outgrown its 2” block and you wish to raise stronger seedlings. Simply transplant the 2” block into the larger block’s divot.

Get your trays ready because you’re about to start blocking and rolling! I soil block directly onto standard size 11” by 21” leak-proof trays but you can use whatever size tray is best suited for your needs.
Dump your seed starting mix into a bucket. I recycled an old plastic drawer that was formerly used as college furniture.

Thoroughly moisten the soil by adding water and mixing with your hands. Continue to do this until a lump of soil can be squeezed and it’s able to hold its form.

Place your bucket on a sturdy surface and dunk the soil block into the bucket. This step requires a lot of elbow grease.

For uniform blocking scrape the soil blocker on the bottom of the bucket. This will pack the soil into the blocker.

Place the blocker directly on the tray, push down on the handle, and lift.

Y voila! Repeat about a thousand times or however many times it takes to fill your tray of choice.

The standard trays I use hold 40 blocks and enough room is allowed for proper air circulation and watering ease.

Time to reach into your seed vault. The last time I counted I had 112 vegetable seed packets. Since then I have added to my sick seed obsession. I store my seeds in a convenient tray in the fridge.

Let the seed sowing begin! Drop in a couple of seeds in each block. One seed per block is acceptable. I sow two per block because I like my seeds to have back up and I’m just crazy that way.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. When you’re sick of blocking it’s time to tuck in your trays. Keep them warm; a windowsill, any sunny spot in your home or in a hobby greenhouse. Some trays may be purchased with plastic lids which act as mini-greenhouses. Saran wrap can also achieve this effect. Keep your babies moist and wait patiently for your reward.

Leisurely Reading

The seed catalogs are pouring in. These sit on my nightstand and I flip through the pages over and over again. I have a seed stash that totals 117 packets; 12 of lettuce alone. And if the lure of colorful seed catalogs wasn’t enough, I also get my seed fix at Henry’s. Last week I picked up 5 more seed packets.

Interdietary Bliss

I can’t remember which new age-y spiritual guru once said, “You have no right to interfere in someone else’s learning process.” That statement confirmed that I could continue to promote my vegan beliefs without imposing them on anyone, even my omnivore husband.

However with that said not only has H drastically reduced his consumption of animal products but he has also expanded his palette to include many vegan options. That makes him more rad!

Onto the eats. In his younger years the husband worked at a pizza parlor. Now I benefit from his pizza making abilities. Two very different pizzas sit side by side in harmony. The right side (touché)is vegan.

Sitting atop homemade pizza dough is Veganaise (the secret to creamy pizza according to the Whole Foods pizza lady), Follow Your Heart mozzarella cheese alternative, mustard greens sautéed with shallots, onions Rossa Lunga di Firenze, and homemade spicy Italian vegetarian sausages.

Mustard greens and onions are from my garden and speaking of garden veggies, the green zebra tomato bounty of ’08 continues to be enjoyed. Lettuce and mesclun pictured also from my garden; salad perfection.

Out of the oven and ready to be devoured.

The mustard greens tasted a lot like kale chips. I see a lot of crispy chippy mustard greens™ in my future. I think I’ll add this recipe to my Vegan Victory Garden Cookbook. ™

A Real Camera

The fat man left me a lump of coal for Xmas but the husband gave me a camera. Yay!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Leafy Greens Galore

I've had a difficult time keeping up with the lettuce. My entire crisper, one huge drawer, is full of lettuce, mesclun, and mustard greens. I've been on a pizza (vegan of course) kick lately and just haven't gotten around to eating salad.

Check out my onions. I can't begin to describe the wonderfully pungent aroma emitted and they taste even better. Thus far they have been my favorite vegetable to grow.

Look what's growing, Summer Squash Sunny Delight. I sowed these seeds on October 26 as part of my "if it's sold at the farmer's market I should be growing it" experiment. My squash is so punk that the rain and cold can't stop it!

Monday, December 22, 2008

And Then There Were None

Yesterday I yanked out my mythical 7' tomato babies. The plants were covered in flowers but they weren't producing the healthiest of tomatoes so it was time to let go and get the bed ready for spring.

After removing the tomato plants I sowed New Zealand White Clover cover crop and added Martinez brand compost. I'll be amending and testing the soil often and will continue to add compost.

Crops left in bed above: radishes, lettuce, mesclun, garlic, shallots, cayenne, and jalapenos.

We harvested the last brandywine and beefsteak tomatoes along with several green green zebras and sun gold tomatoes. Good thing I have a great vegan fried green tomatoes recipe.

I also transplanted Lettuce, Container "Garden Babies," Spinach, Baby Leaf "Catalina," Kale, "Dwarf Blue Curled," Onion, "Yellow Granex," and Rucola. Except for the rogue Rucola from Italy, seeds are from Renee's Garden Seeds and Botanical Interests and all seeds sowed germinated. Who needs a 401(K) with that return on investment?!

My biggest challenge during the next couple of months will be to not sow any seeds that need transplanting into the garden soon; like lettuce and radishes. However I plan on getting a much earlier start on spring so my kitchen table will be seed starting central.

Till then Wrinkles and I will be tending the onions and continue to pick the cabbage worms off of our remaining crops.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And The Winner Is…

Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agri-business. The former governor of Iowa is a moderate democrat and probably won’t make any significant changes. It seems like the new administration is more concerned about biofuels than with food security.

I have a natural repugnance towards government so it’ll be business as usual for me. I will continue to vote with my trowel and sow the seeds of revolution, swap crops with neighbors, and support local farmers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What's Growing On?

A couple of weeks ago I received a package from Renee’s Garden; one of my favorite seed suppliers . I was asked to trial test the new 2009 seed varieties and a test it will truly be. Out of 12 seed packets I received only three are vegetable seeds and the remainder are ornamental flowers.

I don’t gravitate towards ornamentals. I have an extremely difficult time watering anything that isn’t going to feed me. I planted brussels sprouts amongst flax, pentstemon, and daylilies just so the non-vegs can be assured of some water. The only flowers I’ve been able to successfully grow are daisies, marigolds and coleus. I kind of have a black thumb for all others.

The torrential rain has forced me to soil block at the kitchen table. I was planning on blocking yesterday but after hours in the garden, a long walk with Wrinkles, and three hours of cooking, I shined the whole project. I’m behind my planting schedule already and I need a heating mat stat.

I’m clearing out the beds slowly. Here’s Sunday's harvest. It made a delicious salad.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why I'm Crazy About Growing Veggies

And this...

Turns into this and then we eat!

I made spicy salsa, topped crock pot black beans with fresh cilantro, and stuffed a pita with homemade hummus, a green tomato, and lettuce. Not pictured were a couple of white icicle radishes and mustard greens.

Too much produce for one picture!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wrinkles Cares

And we plant with others in mind!

From the Wrigley Association Newsletter:

Wrigley is Going Green members gathered on November 8th to fertilize the 150 trees that were planted in Wrigley last November. The task of tapping fertilizer spikes into the ground followed by watering took only a couple of hours on a beautiful Saturday morning. A special thanks goes goes out to Mauna Eichner, Lee Fukui, Brenda Martinez, Vernon Rudd, and Adriana Martinez for making this essential task fun and rewarding. We also enjoyed having a mascot, Wrinkles, around to supply the cuteness factor.

Story continued in the newsletter.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Victory Home

Casa Wrigley received a little face lift yesterday.

After a couple of days in Santa Barbara we felt like slackers and thought painting the masonry wall around our house would be a cinch. Not!

We had to sand the lime wash paint off of the entire wall first! Lime wash is beautiful but the weather really beats it up.

Gone Blockin'

What do you do when it’s raining outside and your road dog is visiting grandma?

Disclaimer: Wrinkles really isn’t visiting grandma. He’s visiting my mom. She calls herself grandma but she’s the farthest thing from one. I think she’s trying to send me a message.

Soil Block! Just a quick 80-ish for a lazy rainy Tuesday. I purchased a notebook so I can take proper notes. In the past I guesstimated the maturity dates of my transplants. It's pretty easy to figure out when vegetables are ready to be harvested but I’d like to know for sure, did that beet really take 50 days to mature?

I sowed the following: Radishes-Easter Egg II and Breakfast Petit Dejeuner, Lettuce-Garden Babies and Summer Lettuce European Red and Greens, Spinach-Baby Leaf Catalina. All seeds by Renee's Garden seeds.

I also planted Rucola; from what I’m told it is an Italian green. The seeds were couriered from Italy by my lil’ sister’s boyfriend. I also managed to sow Onion-Yellow Granex. Success!