Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Question for Kitchen Gardeners & Fruities:
Do You Have a Pear Tree Growing on Your Property?

Pears not perfect? Make my moist and flavorful 100% Whole Grain Ginger Pear Bran Muffins

Talk about a fruitful investment. A healthy pear tree can produce pears for over 100 years, and each year you may get literally hundreds of pounds of sweet and juicy bounty.

Many pear trees require a second tree to act as a pollinizer, though Bartlett pears—which are the nation's leading pear variety—are self-pollinating and don't even require the assistance of bees.

Do you have a pear tree or trees? Please tell us about them! Let us know what kind you have, what age they are, what sort of bounty you get, or whatever you like.

Commercial pears are picked when they're mature but still hard and are then cooled down to slow the ripening process. Hard fruits obviously fare better on their way from orchard to market, but pears actually ripen better off the tree.

Do you pick your pears when they're still hard? How do you like to store them?

Any pear tips or tricks? Things you wish you'd known when you first planted or inherited your tree(s) are especially welcome.

Previous Questions for Kitchen Gardeners & Foodies:
How Big Is Your Garden and How Much Food Does It Provide?
What Kind(s) of Eggplant Do You Like to Grow and Eat?

©, the fruity foodie farm blog where we've found that bruised and battered overripe pears often taste the best. They're sweet and flavorful, and studies have shown they're full of extra antioxidants when past perfection. Which would technically make the imperfect ones perfect—except for the looks part.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Garden Journal 3/1/09:
Early Spring Planting Plans & An Unexpected Delay

This Is A Lot More Snow Than Last Time—and the Garden Looks Even Prettier

Some of you are no doubt tired of hearing about our crazy and unpredictable Missouri weather, but it really does get in the way of gardening. Growing cool season crops is tricky because it stays like this and then warms up fast (like days in the 90s in April). Early and optimistic starts often end up freezing to death. On the other end of the growing season, with temps regularly in the 90s through September, it's often too hot to start fall crops in time to beat the oncoming cold. Not that this has ever stopped me from trying!

Last week my hunky farmguy Joe was clearing out beds (one benefit to neither of our antique tractors wanting to start!) while I direct seeded spinach without a jacket on, and this is the garden today. Yesterday about nine inches of snow fell in less than six hours. That's pretty unusual for us.

After I'd scattered spinach seeds over one entire 4' x 8' bed and sprinkled them with a thin layer of compost, we covered the bed with a sheet of 4 mil clear plastic (which technically isn't clear, but cloudy) in order to help warm the soil and speed up germination. (The other prepped but unplanted beds are covered with black plastic to warm the soil while keeping weed seeds from germinating.) That night a thunderstorm blew in, and it poured for hour, turning the lined spinach bed into a cute little pond. Now this. Joe says it just means we'll have really good seed to soil contact.

On February 20th, I thickly sowed some mache (a cool loving plant also called corn salad), Tom Thumb butter lettuce, and winter lettuce mix seeds leftover from 2008 in the greenhouse. No sign of them sprouting yet, but I'm still hopeful. Most of the greenhouse is full of overwintered Swiss chard that's now flourishing, so there isn't a whole lot of room for planting (not that I'm complaining), but I'm planning to tuck three kinds of beet seeds (also from 2008) and maybe some other stuff in there in the next few days.

Snow isn't a problem in the greenhouse, but Sylvester the cat is. It's a toss up when direct seeding-do I cover the bed with floating row covers and/or sheets to keep him from digging and keep the soil warmer at night, or do I leave them bare so he won't be inclined to curl up and sleep on the cozy covers? Oh, the things we animal loving gardeners have to deal with.

Comfy Cozy Are They? I Hope So.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, we put 400 little leek plants into the now snowed-in mini greenhouse bed above (for more about these handy and inexpensive shelters, see the comments section of
this post). It got down into the low teens last night, so at least they were insulated. Tonight it's supposed to be even colder, but today it's sunny and my nice insulation slid off. I'm still deciding how I should keep the plants warm tonight. Leeks don't mind cold weather, but I'm thinking 8 or 10 degrees F might really shock these little babies.

This is the first time I've purchased leek plants. I'll share some photos and write more about the planting process if they survive tonight. I'm just glad I didn't have a chance to put the 600 onion plants I also ordered in the ground yet. This was another first, as I usually
plant onion sets. I ordered 10 varieties, 60 plants each, including several types that really aren't suited for our area. I was feeling adventurous—and I guess last spring's super scallion bounty didn't scare me off.

I can't remember if that "In like a lion, out like a lamb" saying is about March or April. I do know that our April will be out like a lamb—in
the most literal sense. As someone who detests hot weather, I'm in no hurry for winter to end, but I'm definitely wondering what the rest of this month will be like. I figure I'll just plant when I can (paying attention to the moonsigns if possible) and hope for the best. Of course, I suppose that's what we always do in the garden, no matter what the weather or the season.

Is your garden still covered with snow?

Related posts:
Onions in the Garden
Three Onion and Three Cheese Pizza Recipe
2/20/06: Susan's Super Spinach Soup
It's Time to Plant Onions!
Interplanting Lettuce and Beets with Onions
What To Do with 125 Green Onions?
Book Review:
Astrological Gardening:The Ancient Wisdom of Successful Planting & Harvesting by the Stars

© 2009, the foodie farm blog where a snowy landscape is beautiful to look at but kind of hard to deal with—and now it's time to go get the animals and the garden ready for tonight's arctic blast.