Sunday, December 26, 2010

New garden bed

It doesn't look like much here, but this hole is the start of a new, small garden bed. It measures ten feet by eight feet, and I've dug out a cubic yard of sandy soil--roughly the top foot of "soil." I'll back my truck up to it, and fill the bed to the top with mushroom compost. The area gets a lot of sun in the spring and summer, but this time of the year it's shaded out by my house and the large live oaks in the front yard. It will give me some space for rotating crops from season to season.

I've got a bunch of cabbages, collards, and broccoli ready to plant, once I get the bed finished.


Our  average December high in this part of Volusia county is the mid- to low-70s. It's reached or exceeded the average only three times this month. We've set one record low, and several record "low-highs."

Freeze damage in the garden is on par with last year: Bananas killed to the ground (several were at bearing stage for next year--three year cycle in my garden). All tropical crops are dead or burned to the ground. Blueberry leaves are bright red. Cruciferous crops are fine, but growing slowly. Peas were damaged by our several days of low-20s, but might recover when the weather warms. My poor tomato seedlings are hanging on, but they haven't grown a centimeter since they sprouted. They'll likely succumb to disease, since they can't "grow out" of any problems.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A late-December update

Late-December harvest... the first turnip of the season was
fantastic--sweet and crunchy, no heat. It would be a pity to cook
them... Citrus is sweet and escaped the freeze. But I spent the
morning whacking the frost-killed and damaged vegetation after a week
of record-cold temperatures.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Freeze & more winter sowing...

Pretty hard freeze last night. My guess is it got to 28° last night here, on the highest point in DeLand. Maybe a degree colder. This morning at 8:30am, my microsprinkler droplets were still freezing on the lettuce... So much for my prediction of a warm winter, at least so far. My tomato and pepper seedlings are safe indoors, on the fridge, out of the path of feline devastation. 

We've got more freezing temperatures headed here tonight. 

This morning after a long, cold, run (I never did warm up the entire time), I planted some seeds from my Johnnys' order: celery, cabbage, kale and mache. 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Making hardwood lump charcoal

I got a Big Green Egg off of Craig's List recently. It's a kind of ceramic oven/grill that uses lump hardwood A smallish bag of the stuff costs $7 and fills the egg four or five times. Not terribly expensive, but not cheap, either. (You can probably use briquettes in the BGE, but hardwood lump is much better: It burns very hot and very clean with no smoky flavor imparted. My friend Bill makes cookies on the BGE--no smoky taste! If I want smoke, I can add chips or chunks of hardwood.) 

So yesterday I tried my hand at making some natural, hardwood lump charcoalI used windfall and old bits of lumber leftover from projects to feed the the fire that heated the inner kiln, a thirty-gallon drum propped up inside the fifty-gallon barrel you see above.  I filled the inside drum with lumps of well-aged, mill ends of Live Oak and Black Cherry that I bought from a local saw mill that gets all of its lumber from domestic tree jobs. So, while making charcoal is never a green endeavor, this was pretty good. All waste wood. 

A total success. It took about four hours to dry the wood completely, then another hour of firing it until the off-gassing started. That was pretty impressive--flames shot out hole I drilled in the bottom of the drum like the afterburners on a rocket. This morning I opened the kiln and found perfect lump charcoal. I used maybe two dollars worth of hardwood in the drum, and got probably $25 worth of lump charcoal. I'll need to do this several times before I pay off the $60 I spend for the barrel and the drum...

The Florida garden in December

Cauliflower, turnips, carrots, lettuce...

I planted seedlings of this chard (I think it's Lucullus, but I'd have to check) on October 2 and harvested some yesterday for supper. Pretty good turnaround for this time of the year. I braised the stalks in tomato sauce, and served the leaves steamed and lightly dressed in olive oil and salt. Very tasty. 

Seedlings for "spring" garden. When I harvest my turnips and cauliflower, I'll replace them with these collards, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings... Probably sometime mid-January or early February.
Sweet peas are setting a bunch of peas... just in time for a frost. Sigh. Maybe they'll make it. 
You can tell by the shadows and quality of light that it's December...
Short days, cold nights, and an approaching frost. Still, it's very