Flowering Peas, Radishes Done, More Lettuce!

I think that lettuce is going to become a new food group all of its own around the house.  Today I went outside and pulled off another 70 leaves from the 11 lettuce plants.  That totalled 2 pounds, 6.75 ounces of lettuce!  So far that almost doubles what has already been harvested – so there has now been about six pounds of lettuce harvested!

2 Pounds, 6.75 Ounces of Simson Elite Lettuce

I went out back and noticed that the peas also have put on their flowers!  Darn, I was hoping that the flowers wouldn't be out until Friday or Saturday of this week – I just wonder how long it will take the pea pods to produce now – hopefully more than 10 days!

Peas Flowering

And lastly, some of the radishes were taken out of the garden today.  These were planted on April 25th and they are now down – 31 days later.  I only picked 7 of the 24 that were originally planted – the others still will grow over the next few days before taking those out.  There was  9.75 ounces of radishes – including the foliage – and 1 7/8 ounces without the foliage.


The green beans in the front are also putting on their next set of leaves as well – so they are coming right along!  Yesterday the weather was pretty much rainy all day without much sunlight.  Today it has been the same – not much sunlight and a steady rain most of the day with some heavier periods.  Seems like this really brought the garden to life yet again!

Arbor, Strawberries, Green Beans, and Peas!

Today I got the netting up over the arbor and the strawberries.  My wife had been after me to do something to cover up the strawberry pyramids because of some stray neighborhood cats using it as a litter box!

So I finally got out the netting that I made last year and put it up over the arbor and the strawberry beds – it took a few hours to finally get it just right to allow it to touch the ground on all sides.  The main purpose was to keep the birds from getting to the grapes and strawberries, but this will also keep all the other animals out as well.

Arbor Covered with Bird Netting

After getting the netting up, I figured a close-up of some of the growing strawberries would be a good idea!  I didn't follow the rule with these strawberries though.  Rule of thumb is that newly planted strawberries should have all fruit pinched off for the first harvest and then the second harvest allowed – so that way the root systems have a good chance to grow.  Well, I didn't want to do that as I couldn't bring myself to pinching off some good fruit in progress!  In addition, the plants seem to be growing quite well as they are putting off some runners as well.

Strawberries on a plant

I haven't posted any good pictures of the green beans coming up – so here is a whole row of green beans that are coming along quite nicely.  A row was placed on both sides of the raised bed that hold the lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers.

Green Beans

To my surprise, I went outside yesterday and noticed that the peas were already putting on flowering pods!  Oh boy.. just in time for our vacation!  I hope that it takes a while for the pods to fully produce because of an upcoming vacation.  Really would be a shame that if we got back, all of the peas would be past their prime and couldn't be used.  Anyways, here is a close-up picture of a couple of those flowering pods getting ready to come out!

Flowering Peas

Garden Update for May 22, 2009

Here is the garden update, as promised, for May 22, 2009.  Things have really grown since the last full set of pictures.

Full Front Garden
Picture of the front garden.  You can see the lettuce to the very left followed by the broccoli and cauliflower.  Not pictured are the peppers.  In the back, you can see the grape arbor and the two strawberry pyramids on the left in the background.

Front Garden #2
A picture of the front garden from the side where the peppers are.  Along the very two sides (and right in front) are the bush blue lake 274 beans.  I'm not too happy with the number of germinations with these.  Out of 84, about 52 came up.

Top view of one of the broccoli plants.  They are doing very well!

Top picture of one of the cauliflower plants.

Strawberry Patch
Picture of one of the strawberry pyramids.  The strawberries are growing very well and many have already lost their flowers and producing strawberries!  You can see – ever so closely in the second box on the very right, there is a little strawberry growing!  Right in the front you can see one of the tri-star strawberry plants putting out a runner off to the right.

Potato Bin
A picture of the potato bin.  I have added the rest of the boards to the bin.  The two front-most potatoes are still way behind the two back ones.  Although you can't see it in this picture, the soil is sloped downward towards the smaller potatoes.  Thank you to Sinfonian for assisting me with some questions.  He says that you do need to bury the full stem and leaves in order for the potatoes to be made all the way up.  Unfortunately, I didn't do this until recently so I still hope that this experiment is a success.

Potatoes growing by themselves in the garden.  The bottom right plant is not a potato – but is an extra strawberry plant I put here since there wasn't any room in the strawberry pyramid.

Oh my how the carrots have grown!  They are getting to be pretty bushy and growing very well.  Unfortunately, with any kind of rain or water, they all bend over and it takes overnight to get them back up.  I guess the water must be like alcohol and they all fall over!

Side Garden
The side garden with a combination of onions down the left side, radishes in the middle, and the peas on the left side.  The peas have at least tripled in size in the past few weeks!  A few more days and the first batch of radishes should be ready for picking as well.

Peas & Radishes
A closer look at the peas and radishes.  The peas are being held up by chicken wire fencing.  They definitely needed to be trained to grasp the fence when they were young – because I didn't put the fence all the way at ground level, but about six inches higher.  I chose to do this because the chicken wire fencing is only 24 inches tall (two feet) and the peas can grow to three feet.

Tomatoes & Peas
The back garden with the three varieties of tomato (best boy, roma, and red cherry tomato).  Peas on the left side along the chicken wire fence.  These peas aren't doing as well as the ones against the house, but they also sprouted a whole week later – if not later.

A close-up of one of the tomatoes in the garden.  They have at least doubled in size since they were put out two weeks ago.

Here are the three cucumbers that have sprouted.  I believe these are the burpee picklers.  None of the marketmore 76 cucumbers came up – but I think it is because the seed was at least two years old.  That is unfortunate because that means no large cucumbers this year.  It was hard to take this picture because I put them behind the peas so they will use the same fencing.

Welp, everyone come back to see next week's update!  Not too much longer and I believe the peas are going to start putting on flowers and making those edible pods!

Lettuce Pickings!

The Black Simpson Elite lettuce is doing great!  So far we have plucked over a two pounds from the 12 lettuce plants.  The first round of lettuce came in around 6 ounces, the second round at 3.75 ounces, the third round a few days ago yielded 13 ounces, and the newest picking – today – weighed in at 1 pound 6.75 ounces!  The lettuce were starting to take over the area very well so I had to pick a lot more last time.

Lettuce from May 15th

Above the lettuce picked from May 15th that weighed 13 ounces.

Lettuce Garden - May 21 2009

The lettuce garden before picking on May 21st.

Lettuce Picked May 21, 2009

Lettuce picked on May 21.  The scale only shows 14 ounces because I couldn't fit it all in the bowl!  In total, there was 1 pound, 6.75 ounces picked.

Unfortunately, one of the 12 plants succumbed to some sort of disease or parasite.  I noticed on Sunday that it appeared the leaves were turning yellow and getting holes in them at the ground surface – and falling off the plant.  Yesterday I went out to look and the rest of all of the leaves were off and withered.  I had to still pull some of them from the main stem.  There were a whole bunch of rollie pollies making home under the lettuce – so I wonder if they are the culprit.  I sure hope not – otherwise that means they will get into the rest of them – just a matter of time.

The rest of the garden continues to grow and I'll have to post new pictures soon.  The peas have really taken off and the carrots have tripled in size.

We’ll Have Grapes This Year!

Well, I am pretty impressed.  I purchased four different grape vines and a Granny Smith tree from an online nursery – Willis Orchards – in the fall of 2008.

From other posts, I put some pictures ot the Granny Smith tree with blooms on it.  Willis Orchards noted that the tree was "fruiting size" and it indeed appears there will be little clusters of apples on the tree this year.  We'll have to pluck most of them off to keep the apples from weighing down the branches.

For the grape vines, we purchased a Niagara, Concord Seedless, Crimson Seedless, and a Flame Bunch Seedless.  The reason I chose those varieties was because they all ripen at different times – and they are all different colors!  Niagara is green, Concord has a dark purple, the Crimson Seedless is an orange-like color, and the Flame bunch grapes are red.  It was going to look great on the arbor out front with all of the colors!

Unfortunately, when I received the four, I was less than happy with two of them.  The Niagara and Crimson grapes looked like little twigs and were very busy with twigs going every which way out of the main vine.  The Concord Seedless and the Flame bunch looked fantastic with two or more canes that were two or more feet long.

I e-mailed Willis Orchards with the below pictures and complained again about the Niagara and Crimson grape vines.  When I first got them, I asked if they were sure that they were three-year old plants (I made sure to get the three-year old instead of the one-year old vines so they would mature and produce grapes quicker).  At that time, they ensured me that they were three-year old vines.

Concord Seedless:
Concord Seedless Grape Vine

Flame Bunch:

Flame Bunch Grape Vine

As you can see, those two grape vines are doing great with good growth.  Now, for the ugly.  These two were planted exactly the same as the Concord and Flame – but look at the difference with them.


Niagara Grape Vine

Crimson Seedless:

Crimson Seedless Grape Vine

These two bad grape vines are going to really throw off the coloration of the arbor – not to mention there will be a lot of spots to fill in.  Even if I get two new grape vines, they will now be a year behind the other two.  I usually do not complain as I am a quiet and timid individual, but this sort of ticks me off that they sent such small twig-like vines.

On a positive note, both the Concord Seedless and Flame bunch have small grape clusters on them!  Each vine has one small grape cluster – so it looks like we will at least have a few grapes this year.

Concord Seedless grape bunch:

Concord Seedless Grape Bunch

Flame Bunch:

Flame Grape Bunch

Gardening Update

Not too much has happened around the garden except the veggies growing very well!  We did plant about 250 seeds of Sugar Dots corn last weekend – and only about 42 of them have come up thus far.  About 200 of the seeds planted could have been up to two years old – and out of those, very few have come up.  The 50 new Sugar Dots seed that was received this year seems to have about 75% of them up thus far.

Today I also planted 24 more crimson radishes along with three each of the Marketmore 76 and Burpee Pickler cucumbers.  The Bush Blue Lake 274 green beans were also planted last weekend – about 83 were planted.  Many have broken the top of the soil with a few that have some leaves on them already.

 Anyways, here are some pictures of the garden.

Grapes – this one is the Concord Seedless.  The Flame Bunch also is doing nicely – although the two runts – the Niagara and Crimson – look completely dead.  I wasn't too happy with these two varieties I received from the nursery because they were very small unlike the Concord Seedless and Flame Bunch.
Concord Seedless Grapes

And the strawberries.  I just had to replace another one today that was dead in the pyramid.  I now have two extras planted in the back just in case another one dies.  So far I've replaced two of them.
Strawberry Pyramid

A picture of the green onions in the front, crimson radishes in the middle, and the dwarf gray sugar peas growing in the back.  For next year, I will know that I need to start the fencing at ground level.  These poor little peas have needed a lot of help clinging and starting their way up the fencing.
Dwarf Sugar Grey Peas

Potatoes are coming along nicely in the potato box.  I've been filling the box up pretty good.  The one on the bottom right is doing fantastic while the other three are still small.
Potatoes in the Potato Bin

The carrots are also doing great.  They keep on growing!
Burpee Carrots

How about the Black Simpson Elite leaf lettuce!  I pulled a large leaf off of each of the 11 plants here yesterday and had a salad for two people.  Very fresh.
Black Simpson Lettuce

And lastly – the broccoli patch.  The Bush Blue Lake 274 green beans were placed down the entire raised bed here on either side – all six inches apart. 

Welch’s Grape Fruit Juice Wine Completed

Back in February, we began making our own wine.  I wanted to experiment a little bit first before the grapes begin to produce their fruit – which will be used to make wine as well.  The grape vines still have about three more years before getting any decent amount of fruit.

So, we started off using Welch's Grape Fruit Juice.  One thing to note when buying grape fruit juice for this purpose is that it cannot contan any sorbate.  This hinders the yeast from growing and therefore you cannot make wine from the fruit juice.

We purchased five gallons of grape fruit juice.  After putting it into a plastic carboy – known as a "Better Bottle", we then had to mix in quite a bit of sugar.  Although I do not remember how much sugar was used, the specific gravity (measured with a Hydrometer), was approximately 1.105.

The yeast we used – Red Star Montrachet – is known to have a weakness with too much over 1.10 specfic gravity.  After mixing in the grape fruit juice, the yeast, and sugar, we let the solution sit in the Better Bottle for about 2.5 months.  On top of the Better Bottle, you need to put a cap on the top in addition to an airlock.  This prevents any oxygen from getting into the container and contaminating your wine.

It is also VERY important to ensure that all of the tools and containers that come into contact with your solution is very well sanitized – I used Five Star StarSan for this purpose.

While not required, I also added five campden tablets (basically this is Potassium Metabisulfate) into the five gallons of solution as well and mixed it in.  By adding the campden tablets, it helps the yeast compete against any other bacteria – if any got in without proper sanitation.  Stir everything in very well and then place your cap and airlock on.

Wine Stirring

 We went to a place in Maryville, IL – William James Trading – that sold wine and beer brewing materials.  While we were there, we purchased a REAL Better Bottle (the one shown above is just a five-gallon water container), a mixing rod that connects to a drill for quick mixing, a few chemicals that would be needed down the road, more yeast, and a five-gallon "Ale Pail" bucket.  The first order was done through Leeners onlne for a few items to even get this far – such as the campden tablets, yeast, and a few other items like some clear tubing.

After a few months, I went back to check since the air lock was only bubbling once about every two minutes.  While I could have let it go on longer, I decided this was enough.  I did another specific gravity reading – and this time it was at 1.007.  I have been told that to find the alcohol content, you simply subtract the beginning measurement from the ending.  So:

1.105 – 1.007 = 0.098

That represents 9.8% alcohol by volume.  While that isn't exactly a perfect match, its good enough to go off of.

After this, the folks at William James told me that I should add one campden tablet per two gallons and one teaspoon of sorbate per two gallons.  We crushed up the campden tablets, poured the sorbate in, and really stirred it up good.  You have be careful though – because it really brings up the carbon dioxide out of the wine – and to the top – almost like shaking up a can of soda and then opening it!

After adding that all in, we then put the cap and air lock back on.  We waited a week and there was zero activity with the airlock – which means it is ready for bottling.

The reason you add the campden tablets and sorbate to the finished product is to kill off any remaining yeast and bacteria in the wine.  If there is still yeast in the wine after you bottle it, your bottles will explode and make quite the mess!

So today, a week after adding the stuff, we bottled the wine.  It made four gallons and 1.5 liters.  We opted to buy the 1 gallon jugs from the William James Trading place – because I didn't want the extra expense of buying all of the bottles, corks, and a corker for this first time.

As funny as it may sound, we also filtered the wine when bottling it.  When I took the last specific gravity measurement with the Hydrometer, we noticed there was a lot of sediment in the container.  So, we racked the wine from the Better Bottle into the five-gallon Ale Pail.  There was a huge amount of sediment left on the bottom, but that still wasn't good enough for me.  So, I got an old powerhead from a fish tank (it was very well cleaned first) and we put a coffee filter over the intake.  After we filled each gallon jug, we changed the coffee filter.  It was a very inexpensive way of filtering the wine – instead of buying one of those $200 wine filtering systems.

So, we now have quite a lot of wine to drink!  It will hopefully be in storage for a few months, but right now it is quite sweet but has a kick to it as well.  We usually drink a Lambrusco series of wine around the house, but our wine isn't as sweet as Lambruso, but has a higher alcohol content.

Wine Equipment

Finished products