East Sac Edible


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Harvesting Onions

DSC_1751 DSC_1752 DSC_1270Way back on September 17, 2013 I planted a row of onions along the curved path in my front yard behind the salvias. Now that I think about it, that was about 9 months ago! I put these onions in as an experiment to see how well my recently de-lawned soil would handle a crop. I barely worked the soil. In fact, I just dug a small hole right were I was going to plant which was difficult to do since the soil was quite hard. I think I threw in a little compost into the hole but other than that I let them be. I barely watered them either.

The reason why I decided to plant a row straight into my landscaping was because in 2013 I planted onions in one of my garden beds. They did pretty well but I planted them so packed together that I ended up with really small onions or where two onions meshed together into one plant. The two onion heads were particularly hard to store and many times when I went to cut into it, the onion had mold in-between the two-headedness space. Onions take a really long time so I decided to move them to the outskirts of my landscaping where I wouldn’t bother them. And my results were pretty good. I had many that are just huge (soft-ball sized onions) and others that are a little smaller.

Well the last couple of weeks I have noticed a lot of those onions go to flower and a few days ago I noticed a few of the stems had finally flopped over, a sign that they are ready to be harvested. I harvested the flowering onions separately from the flopped over, non-flowering onions because flowering onions will not keep so I need to be sure to use them first.

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In 2013 my total harvest for onions was 9.31 pounds. I am letting this harvest dry out on my patio and I even have a few left in the ground that were not ready to be picked. I will weigh them after they are cleaned up, tops chopped off and ready for storage. Here is a picture of my small 2013 onion harvest.

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Onions are light feeders. This means that they can get by with less fertile soil. If you have soil that you are gradually improving you can put onions in areas of your garden that is not your richest soil and still have a good yield. That is why I think onions are a great crop for first time gardeners.

Even if you have a small space or you are not sure how much work you want to put into your garden, planting onions gives you a whole lot of output for very little effort. You basically can just plant them and forget them. Plus onions are a huge benefit to your garden. Since they have such a strong scent they tend to deter a lot of insects. This means I don’t have to worry about my onions for pests plus they discourage insects on other plants as well. I haven’t had much luck starting my onions from seed so I usually get mine in seedlings but I have also grown them from bulb sets as well.

Plus did I mention they are delicious? There is a reason why most recipes start with sautéing onions as a first step. I love slowly sautéing them in olive oil and making caramelized onions to top my homemade pizzas. Yum!

 

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A Failed Experiment: Garlic Harvest

In September of 2013, I decided to try to make the most of my garden space. This means I decided to plant things where they probably shouldn’t go. But I am always up for an experiment. I decided to use this very small patch of dirt on the side of my house to grow garlic. Digging into this ground was almost impossible and I found lots of fun stuff like broken bottles. I dug it up as well as I could although the pitchfork kept getting stuck under the fence… that shows you how small this space really is. I stopped about half way down the fence because I couldn’t even get my pitchfork into the dirt further down the line. This definitely was dirt and not soil. I didn’t find one living thing in the dirt… not an earthworm in sight.
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I put in some better soil since this dirt definitely didn’t have any nutrients in it. As you can see this part of the “garden” really doesn’t get all that much sun through the day since it is shaded by the house. Again, probably not the most brilliant place to try to plant something. DSC_0859

I decided on two varieties of garlic for no particular reason. One was Chesnok Red a hard neck variety, and the other was a no-name variety I got at my local garden store, Talini’s NurseryDSC_0861

This is what the garlic looked like on May 17, 2014. I was pretty impressed that they did this well. DSC_1601Well that is pretty much as good as it gets. This week I started pulling up the garlic that has dried leaves and is falling over. And this is what I harvested so far…DSC_1874Isn’t it the tiniest garlic you have ever seen? So basically no growth! It looks almost exactly the same size as when I planted it. Below is a picture of some garlic I put in along my fence line in much better soil and these look like your standard size garlic. DSC_1872Here they are side by side. The garlic from the side of the house is on the left and the garlic in better soil and spaced out a bit more is on the right. DSC_1875 DSC_1873So the lesson of the day is… soil matters! When you plant in unworkable, barren soil you get small, dinky plants! Well I am not going to give up on this little plot of dirt I have on the side of my house. I am thinking that if I can work up the soil by adding compost and maybe a handful of worms that this little strip of land can be used for growing shadier veg like lettuces or some herbs.

 


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Freecycled Horse Manure

Recently I have been using freecycle to obtain some gardening items. Freecycle is a website that allows you to get and receive things for free in your local area. Basically it is a big “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” forum.

And boy did I get someone’s trash…. about 30 gallons of it.20140227_143324

Isn’t it glorious?

A woman in Fair Oaks has two horses and a miniature pony. Every year she posts her composted horse manure for people to take. When I drove up her miniature pony came running over from the far side of the pasture to greet me. Armed with my trusty Hunter boots and many 5 gallon buckets, I filled as many buckets as would fit in my car. The pile was as tall as my shoulders. She said that the pile had been sitting for most of the year so it was pretty well composted. There were mushrooms and a few worms in the pile. Gloves and high boots do come in handy when you are trampling around in a large pile of poo. I highly recommend bringing these items if you plan on doing this.

When I came back home I had to decide what to do with my bounty. A few bucketfuls went directly on my garden to await spring planting and the rest I threw on my compost. I mainly made this decision to put the manure on my compost because of lack of time to do anything else with it. And it ended up being an excellent decision! I created the open air compost pile which was about half way through the composting process. I threw the horse manure on top and piled it high. The added volume of the horse manure allowed the compost to heat up and the next day the middle was nice and steamy. It heated up so quickly! The compost finished in under two weeks.

The other great thing about this is that it was completely free! You can buy bagged chicken or horse manure at the garden stores but if there is a source willing to give it for free all the better!

You need to make sure you find a source that has well composted manure. Many people will give away their manure but do ask how long their pile has been sitting there. This will give you the information you need so that you can decide if it can be used straight away in your garden. Do not add fresh manure to plants as this can damage young plants. I also recommend adding the manure with other compost to make sure you have a good balance of material. Composted manure doesn’t smell and aside from a few larger chunks it should look like soil.

Now let me tell you why I am going to all the trouble of hauling away horse poo back to my house. Last year I planted intensively in my garden. I have a small space so I am trying to maximize every space I have and if I dont give back to my soil I will have unhealthy yields the next year. Currently I don’t have a source for animal manure so I have to go to the source. If I want to continue to grow my own veg then manure and composting are my answers to keeping a productive organic garden. Happy soil = happy vegetables = happy me!