Gymgirl's blog: My 2016 Garden Journal - March

Posted on Mar 2, 2016 8:59 AM

March 1 75° - Overcast, but, bright

Folks say you can't start beets inside and transplant them out, because they don't like that long taproot disturbed.Which is why I start them in the wide-mouth, 6 oz. yogurt cups. Just tip 'em over and set the entire root ball. No disturbance.
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I continue to be amazed. The beets I transplanted last Saturday looked like death warmed over when I set them in. This was the set that never got separated into individual yogurt cups. They were a tangled mess. However, I peeped under the hoop cover yesterday, and those beets are standing up at attention, as crisp as if they had been direct sown there!!!

So, now I'll go ahead and transplant the remaining 2/3 of the 4x8 bed. There are still some poor, tired, huddled masses, but, I also have a batch that are growing in individual cups. They look great already, so I'm not really worried about them...maybe I should be...Murphy's Law?

Hugs! ^ Smiling ^^ Smiling ^

March 7 68° - Overcast; Heavy thunderstorms predicted in next two days...

Sick in bed for the past 3 days. Haven't had a voice since Friday morning. Feeling better, today.

I put a press on Saturday afternoon, when I thought I was better...

Contenders are all up. Transplanted all the beets. Reworked both compost bins. Raked leaves, edged and mowed. Collapsed, in bed, again, LOL!

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I laid a thick sheet of clear plastic on the bed after I sowed the beans. The sun solarized the soil underneath, and the plastic kept the squirrels from digging up the beans. Then I covered the entire bed under a hoop covered with perforated plastic sheeting. It stayed pretty warm under there. The green beans are standing up about 3 inches tall as of today.

The weather is wonky all over. I think we're through with winter, and, I'm moving on, calculatedly, with springtime.

A NOTE ON TRANSPLANTING MY BEETS:
You should know that I actually transplanted two sets of beet transplants.

Early on, inside, I separated a couple trays of the seedlings into individual yogurt cups, and put them back under the lights to continue growing. Life (and a death) interrupted this process for the remaining seedlings, which grew into tangled clumps. I transplanted the individual seedlings first. This last several batches went in as clumps. For each cup of tangled seedlings, I dug a fairly deep hole, set the whole tangled root ball down, and pressed it in firmly. I set these clumps fairly close together, since I don't expect to get beetroots at this point. But, I DO anticipate tons of beet greens, which are delicious, cooked!
Thumb of 2016-03-21/Gymgirl/3d7340(l)TRANSPLANTED CLUMPS OF BEETSThumb of 2016-03-21/Gymgirl/f58deb(r)BEETS IN YOGURT CUPS

I think I have my pill bug population under control, so, I'm going to just toss out beet seeds (for the first time) close to the end of summer. The waning heat will help the seeds germinate, and they'll grow into the cool of the fall. As much as I hate it, I'll thin the seedlings from there. That way, I should get a good crop of beetroots to can during the winter.

Hope this helps!

March 10 77° Drizzerable.
Well, the monsoons moved in early Wednesday morning. I sweated bullets all night, because I left trays of tomato seedlings out in the open, and expected to see them scattered all over the yard. However, God, in His infinite mercy, kept them safe in their trays. It rained off and on through this evening, and I never got out to check the damage...I peeped out the window...

March 11 77° Overcast, but brightening.
I did an early morning walkabout to survey the rainstorm damage, and, am happy to report, THERE IS NONE!
►The tomato trays are filled with rainwater, but, hey, they'll live!
►The Contender green beans are looking outstanding. The beans are standing about 6" with a large set of true leaves!
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►The Beets transplanted two weeks ago are all standing up, so I definitely will get beet greens for the freezer!Thumb of 2016-03-12/Gymgirl/dd59f0 The beets transplanted last weekend look pitiful, but, they'll stand up in a few more days, too.Thumb of 2016-03-12/Gymgirl/2aa82c

►Need to harvest more collards & spinach.
►Cucumber seedlings sowed in the Earthboxes are up, and looking exceedingly strong. Need a trellis in place, ASAP!Thumb of 2016-03-21/Gymgirl/19d963

TO DO LIST:
Trellis for the cukes!
Install a 2nd overhead wire on the Mittleider in-the-garden greenhouse
Rip the broccoli plants, and replace with tomatoes and peppers.
Consolidate the small planters into a couple of large ones.

March 12 76° Bright and breezy.
Late start. Feeling pukey.
►Refreshed some potting mix into a couple of large planters.
►Transplanted two #Sioux and two #Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes into large planters.
►Watered the beets and vented the hoop. The breeze has perked them up.
►Edged and mowed the yard.
►The compost bins got waterlogged Wednesday, but, one has dried up, and hit 110°.

March 14 80° Sunny and HOT!
Did more research on #LOQUATS, and making jams/jellies. Discovered there's a whole lot more you can do with a loquat than that! You can freeze them, make smoothies, wine, dehydrate them, pickle them, and so much more.

I've identified 5 huge trees in my neighborhood that are LOADED with fruit that no one seems to care about. Well, I care that the birds and squirrels and possums will pick them clean, and, since it seems to be FREE fruit for the taking, I'm gearing up to harvest that fruit, preserve it, and row merrily along, LOL!

My plan is to make Loquat jam this weekend. Pomona Pectin recipes. Will post pics when available, and report the outcome.

Meanwhile, here're the trees I've identified (so far):

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March 16 80° Overcast!
Watered the green beans and the beets. The weather man keeps lying to me...

ALL the beets are standing up! Since I'll likely have tops only, I discovered I can dehydrate them to a crisp, run them through the food processor and turn them into a powder I can use as a sprinkle in soups, stews, smoothies, eggs, etc. How KEWL is that? Thumb of 2016-03-21/Gymgirl/159b7eBEFOREThumb of 2016-03-21/Gymgirl/d7959dAFTER

March 18 80° Overcast & ready to storm!
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I raced out to the #LOQUAT trees, picked a 5-gallon bucketful, then spent the next 4 hours de-seeding them. I ended up with two 6-quart crock pots of de-seeded fruits, and one huge bowlful of whole loquats left to deal with.

I picked from three different trees in my neighborhood, and, flavor-wise, it was very interesting. Tree number one had loquats like the ones we ate growing up, sweet and tangy. Tree numbers 2 & 3 had huge, golden orange fruits that had absolutely no taste at all. After I tasted the first several fruits, I left those trees alone, and moved on to tree numbers 4 & 5.

Before I could even ask, the lady who answered the door took one look at my bucket and said "take all that you want," LOL!! Well, I tasted the first fruit and almost passed out. It was the sweetest loquat I have ever eaten in my life!! I ended up with 2/3 of a bucket of the Tangy-Sweet fruits from tree number one, and 1/3 of a bucket from tree numbers four & five, which were so naturally sweet. Wish I had started with THOSE trees, LOL! I put the crock pots of loquat meat in the fridge until I was ready for my jam making session.

March 20 85°

"WE BE JAMMIN'!"
I went to Penzy's Spice Shop and introduced myself to Cardamom. One #loquat jam recipe recommended it, but, I needed to figure that out. Good thing I did, because, although the unadulterated loquat jam was OK, it was [i]only[/] OK. It needed some "pop," and the Cardamom was that pop! I used Pomona Pectin and their recipe for blueberry jam, since there was no Pomona recipe for loquats. A good friend who I consider to be the Jam & Jelly Queen in NOLA, recommended I start out with 1/2 cup of Agave Nectar (my sweetener of choice for this project), and increase from there. I ended up using 1 cup for each of the two batches I made. I also added 3/4 tsp. of sea salt to the recipe, to balance out the "sweet"-ness.

It took me a minute to appreciate the taste of Cardamom, but, it has grown on me, LOL! I've been enjoying the jam on plain wheat bread (untoasted), and having a blast!

Two batches yielded a total of 19 half-pints of Loquat Jam. That was definitely NOT enough!!!!

Additional #LOQUAT JAM Notes:
►8-9 cups of whole fruit and 1c water were simmered down for 15 minutes. At this point, I hit them lightly with the immersion blender to break up the skins. NEXT time, I will break them up a bit more, since there were larger pieces of skins in the final product. Or, better yet, I will try to remove the skins altogether by blanching the whole fruits first in a pot of boiling water, like I do for raw almonds. The skins might just slip off altogether. Then, de-seed them!
►Measure out the required 4 cups of cooked fruit, after simmering & blending.
►The sea salt helped
►I used 1/4 tsp Cardamom per batch. That was a very good level...
►I added crushed pepper flakes to one batch, but, it wasn't enough to even taste the heat. Add MORE heat next time, similar to a pepper jelly...
►Experiment with freezing the whole fruits. They may just slip from the skins once thawed out...
►Recruit friends to help with de-seeding!!! This is the most tedious part of the process!!
►Pay attention to the weather in 2017. Begin sampling the fruits the 2nd or 3rd week in March. Target picking begins 4th week of March through the 2nd or 3rd week in April. The harvesting window in Houston is VERY, VERY short!!!
►Finally, MAKE MUCH MORE LOQUAT JAM in 2017!

Week of March 28 - April 1 overcast, cool, sunny, breezy & misty... YARD CATCH-UP!!
►Started consolidating many small containers into fewer large containers. Less IS more...
►Refreshed potting mixes with Mittleider Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed
►Added bags of Black Kow composted manure to RBs #3 & 4. Just spread it on top. Didn't work it in.
►Divided Ferns & cut back the Firecracker plant
►Transplanted 3 NOIDs (Anita's) and one Sioux tomato plant in RB #3. Strung them up to the overhead line.
►Transplanted 4 Tabasco and one red chili pepper plants in RB #4.
►Cleared out lettuce half of RB #5. Need to plant something there, and pray the Buttercrunch reseeds itself in the fall...
►Edged and mowed yard.
►Played with the compost bins. Need to start sifting it onto the raised beds.

March 29
After TWO years, I needed to make another batch of Homemade Laundry Powder. 2 Tbsp. per load.
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►There are blooms on the #Contender Green Beans!!!
►The two #Matt's Wild Cherry and two #Sioux tomatoes have fruits!

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