Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sweet Potatoes

At the end of April I ordered 100 sweet potato slips and a packet of basil seeds from Gurney's Seeds. Two days later they said the shipped the basil seeds. To this day I have not received them, either they got lost in the mail, or some miscommunication is going on, which wouldn't surprise me. Around May 12 I emailed them about the basil, they said they had shipped it. A couple days later I asked them to refund the sweet potatoes, as I had found a better place that seemed better and would ship them sooner. They refunded me on the sweet potatoes, and I ordered from Tatormans.

Yesterday I received a box of sweet potato slips from Gurneys. So, apparently they refunded me and then shipped them, they are not the best with communication. Anyway, last night I cut down vetch and weeds I had growing in a bed, spaded it over, ran it over with a hoe, watered it with 40 gallons of water, sprayed Sea-Crop on it, and set black plastic over it. I cut holes in the plastic and proceeded with frustration to insert the slips. It was harder than I thought it would be, but I planted 63 plants, roughly a foot a part.

This morning I planted the rest of them in a bed I had soybeans growing.

I am getting 125 plants from Tatormans, so I will have to find more room to put them in. My sweet potato harvest should be quite large this year if they do well!

English Vintner

Thursday, 19 May 2011

News of the Garden

Well, it has been a few days since I was on here. Life has been busy, but has gotten less complex since my brother starting working for my dad again and so I have fewer days to work, and more days to do school. I am enjoying doing math on a more regular basis, and reading through history is exciting.

I haven't gotten up as early the last couple days as I wanted to, but I guess I should have gone to bed earlier if I wanted to get up earlier.

Today I went down to the garden, and enjoyed a sunrise, something I haven't seen more than about two of in the last two weeks! It has been rather cloudy, and for the last two weeks has rained almost everyday. We've probably gotten 5-8 inches of rain in the last two weeks! Tuesday we had a flood warning, two creeks were within a foot of flooding (one creek was 11.5ft and the other 8.5ft high). All that to say, I haven't gotten a lot done in the garden lately.

My romaine lettuce is about done, I'm letting the slower heads and less diseased looking ones go to seed (I did that last year and grew all my head lettuce from seeds I saved). The rest were also bolting, and we ate some, but today I threw the rest in the compost pile. It is a pity the season for lettuce is so short here. If I could find a better place closer to the creek and in shade it might help, but I haven't figured out how to do that.

My leaf lettuce is getting big, I have a patch coming up that will be the last until fall I assume. This fall/winter I plan on doing a full bed (20ft long) of lettuce, greens, and maybe some root crops under plastic with hoops.

My swiss chard and beets are about ready to harvest, I'll probably harvest some this week. I have a little bit of spinach, it isn't doing that well though, poor germination and not so good soil.

My potatoes are doing pretty good. I have some under agribon (though slugs are eating some of them) that are about 20inches tall. I have another row that are a couple inches tall, and I just planted 12 more plants this morning. So, if they don't get eaten by pests I should get a good crop of them.

I am expecting sweet potato slips in the next week or two. I reordered from another place that specializes in sweet potatoes. I got 3 different kinds. 50 slips of Georgia Jets, 50 Beauregard, and 25 Centinial (I forget the exact name). I have one bed that has chickling vetch that will plant probably 50 slips at least. I need to till a another bed or two above the fence for some more. If I do them above the fence I will have to buy chicken wire to go over the bed, to keep the deer from eating them.

My brassica are doing well. They don't seem to have cut worms, though slugs are a small problem. My peas once again have failed, due to aphids. I'll try a small crop next year, if they fail, I may not do peas for a while, until my soil is better. I guess on the one hand they are improving the soil as a legume.

My squash are quite well, no signs of squash bugs yet. This week or next I should have my first female flower. I have 14 zucchini plants! 5 hills of watermelons (orange and sugar baby), 3 cucumbers, 2-3 yellow summer squash, and another couple zucchini that my cousin gave me.

Most of my beans are coming up. I have an amount of beans coming up almost equal to a row of beans 60ft long.

My two biggest crops this year will be zucchini, and beans. If I can get my tomatoes in (I have the plants, just haven't transplanted) then I should get a good crop of those also.

My allium are doing well. If my garlic does okay I should have 150 cloves of garlic. 30 cloves elephant garlic. A couple dozen red and yellow onions, couple dozen leeks, and a good amount of shallots.

My strawberries are about done bearing. I have a few berries left to ripen. I think we got close to 2 quarts, not to bad, since I transplanted them this year from the previous bed. Hopefully next year I will have more.

I have yet a lot to do in the garden, and not a lot of time. My cousin should be coming again around the middle of June and hopefully we can get more done then also.

My tiller which we got working, is now not working again. It got left out in a down pour. I was actually going to go put a tarp in it, but the rain was pelting so hard, so much thunder and lighting, and I couldn't see that I didn't. I am not sure what is wrong with it, but I about broke my pull string, so that has to be fixed also. I will probably check and see if the intake valve is stuck down, that was what happened last time. I've been playing around with the jet screw and that doesn't seem to be the problem. I really need my tiller working before the sweet potatoes arrive. I chopped down above the fence on Monday, now I need to till. So, I guess I should see about my tiller, amongst the other things! : )

Whew....life is full around here. I have a flute recital tonight, should be fun. I have been playing the flute now for 7.5 years, I started playing 2 months before I turned 10 years old.

I bottled my Utopia Cream Ale, I actually flavored 3 gallons of it with raspberries, 1 gallon with caramel syrup, and 1 gallon left alone. The raspberry is good, but I wish it was stronger.

Cherrio, don't get in too much trouble while I'm off. ; )
English Vintner

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Caramel Syrup

Yep, it's time for another recipe. I asked Matthew Sganga (Stone Table) how he made his caramel syrup, and he said that you can make it two basic ways. One way you make a simple syrup, and add vanilla to that. The other way you beat some egg yolks into it.

So, I went home and experimented with it. After my third time I think I have perfected my recipe.

Caramel Syrup
3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar (you can change the ratios to get whatever color you like)
1/2 c. water
3Tbs butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 egg yolks

Mix the sugar and water in a pan, heat to boiling with lid on to keep it from evaporating too much. Add the butter and let it simmer while you mix in a bowl 2 egg yolks and vanilla extract together. Take the syrup off the stove, let it cool for a few minutes. Ladle a little bit of the syrup into the egg yolks while beating to temper the egg yolks. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the syrup while beating it to incorporate the egg yolks into the syrup. Bring to light boil on stove. Take off, pour into jars and cool.

You have to be careful with the egg yolks, if you add them into the boiling syrup, before tempering they may scramble and you will have little bits of cooked egg yolk running through it. If this happens either use it as is, or strain it. You can use milk or cream instead of water for another variation off this. Do keep in mind though, milk and egg tend to scramble or curdle when boiling, so choose your ingredients and when to add them carefully. To make a thicker syrup use less liquid and more butter and sugar.

This syrup can be added to anything you want caramel syrup for. Oatmeal, brownies, iced coffee, cakes, ice cream, you name it.

Enjoy the recipe!

English Vintner

Monday, 9 May 2011


Strawberries are a wonderful summer fruit. They have good aroma and excellent taste, and are appeasing to the eye. Strawberries typically ripen between late April and June. There are two main types of strawberries, June-bearing and Ever-bearing. Ever-bearing produce a crop in Spring and then a crop in Fall. June-bearing typically bear fruit for a couple of months in the late Spring early Summer.

The first strawberry that was bred was in Brittany, France in 1740.

Strawberries grown commercially are usually grown in raised bed systems, with black plastic to keep erosion and weeds down. They are usually replanted every 1-2 years because of disease.

For the home gardener strawberries are a fun crop to grow. When grown correctly they can provide quite a nice yield, up to a quart per plant!

The main things to consider when planting strawberries is how good the soil is, do you want to take up the room, and which varieties?

The better the soil the less pests essentially. For little or no aphids on your plants, grow strawberries in pure hummus or compost. Aphids don't like strawberries when they are grown in pure hummus, I assume due to the plant being healthier. You want to add some fertilizer to it, high rich compost that has not lost nutrients will work pretty good, though I would probably add some bone and blood meal and comfrey leaves to the soil. The bone meal will release phosphorus slowly, and the blood meal will release nitrogen rather quickly. The comfrey leaves decompose fast and add nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorus. You want a thick mulch of straw to keep weeds down and help strawberries stay cleaner when it rains.

The room for growing strawberries is not a whole lot. Plant them with between 12-18 sq inches per plant. Most of the time strawberries are sold in bundles of 25 plants. Expect 25 to give a small harvest the first year (or none if you pinch off flowers for bigger growth) and then a couple of gallons depending on how the soil is. For a small garden you probably don't want to take up more room then 25 plants worth, besides the fact that strawberries send out runners that propagate into new plants quickly.

What varieties? I have June bearing and like the yields. For 25 plants, and only getting one kind, I would say that is up to you. If growing more than 25 plants try getting a mix of June-bearing and Ever-bearing ones, so you get strawberries all summer long. If you plant strawberries in the Fall, you can expect to get a small harvest in the Spring, versus planting in the Spring and getting little or no harvest.

Strawberries are fun to grow, and taste MUCH better than ones you can buy in the store! Find an online nursery and look up the varieties of strawberries to find the perfect strawberry for you!

Information gleened from: my experience, http://www.farmfreshliving.com/How_to_Grow_Strawberries.html, and wilkipedia

English Vintner

Monday, 2 May 2011

Onion Relish

Time for a recipe. This recipe is one I learned at the Stone Table, the restaurant I am interning at. They put it on the spinach salad they serve, and it is amazing. Sweet and sour and it looks amazing!

They keep it simple, and don't have a set recipe, so I just guessed, and you will have to guess also. (Just use those cooking instincts!)

Onion Relish
1 red onion
red wine vinegar
brown sugar

Cut the onion in half, the cut it so it will be in slices, not diced. Separate them and put them in a pot. Add red wine vinegar, for one onion I would guess between 1/4-1/2 c. though, I just guessed. Take a handful of brown sugar and put it on top of it all. Turn on the heat, around medium and let it cook down. I used a lid part of the time to keep it from boiling off too much moisture. The onions will be cooked when they are pink and translucent. Store in the fridge, use on salads and sandwiches.

English Vintner