The Winter Seed List

by A.J. Coltrane

This will be our second year of winter gardening. In year one I made spreadsheets like this Seed Germination Times And Temperatures. Days To Maturity. And Plant Minimum Temperatures. NW Edition.

Last year our main microclimate (in the back yard, under the 2nd story deck) was too cold and dark, so the output was only marginally worth the trouble. At best. A good summary post with multiple links is here.

This winter we’re going to put the new salad table right by the front door (and kitchen). As of right now I’m leaning against using a row cover, with the idea that if clipping a few greens is super simple and quick then we’re much more likely actually harvest salad for dinner — standing around in the cold rain while messing with a row cover didn’t go over so well last year.

Having said that, here are the seeds we purchased:

Description Minimum Temp
Bloomsdale Savoy Spinach Conventional & Organic 5-10
Coriander-Santo (Cilantro) 10
Dill-Fernleaf 30
Guardsman Onion 5-10
Miners Lettuce 5-10
Red Baron Onion Conventional & Organic 5-10
Roquette Salad Arugula Conventional & Organic 5-10
Super Sugar Snap Peas 15
Vit Corn Salad (Mâchè) 5
Winter Density Lettuce 5-10


That “5-10″ for the Arugula and Winter Density lettuce might be a little optimistic. 20F (or freezing) might be closer to the truth. The dill we’ll harvest and freeze as dill butter when the weather starts turning chilly.

The onions (and last year’s saved garlic) will be transplanted into EarthBoxes once the cucumbers and basil are done for the year. Our regular whisky-barrel style containers don’t seem to drain well enough for alliums to avoid rot. In this case, I’m thinking using row covers to keep the snow off might be the right idea.

Now it just needs to quit being a million degrees outside so that the new plants won’t bolt immediately.

Grilled Flatbread With Pesto And Goat Cheese

by A.J. Coltrane

Or Pesto and Goat Cheese Grilled Flatbread? It definitely featured pesto:

150720 pesto flatbread

The dough formula:  400g Bread Flour, 240g vaguely warm water, 9g kosher salt, 8g extra virgin olive oil, 1.5 tsp instant yeast. (60% water, 2.25% salt, 2% oil)

Those are very “normal” ratios. It was basically a grilled pizza dough. Or focaccia. Take out the oil and it’s a baguette dough. Normally I’d use 1 tsp of yeast, but this was the same “company-coming-over-soon” night where things needed to be ready quickly. The “extra” yeast ensured that the dough would be ready for dinner, and it allowed for additional reshaping, leading to a lighter end result.

For the grilling process:  I stretched out the dough and tossed it onto the grill over medium heat. After a few minutes I brushed the top with olive oil and flipped it over. I  brushed the new top lightly with oil, then spread on the pesto. When the flatbread looked like it was about done we scattered goat cheese over the whole thing.

What follows is the first picture on this blog of an actual human that we know personally. This one happens to be a very short female:

15720 kid1

Not my child. She belongs to the dinner guests. Though she’s small, she almost single-handedly ate a 1.5 pound flatbread. Anytime short people will eat food without complaint I’ll call it a victory.

I also think I learned a little something about pesto in the process. Something like this FN recipe is a “standard” pesto. It calls for 2 cups packed basil, 1/2 cup grated Pecorino, and 1/4 cup pine nuts. I used ~2 cups packed basil, ~3/4 cup grated parmesan, and ~3/4 cup buzzed toasted pine nuts.

I like it way more with the additional cheese and (especially) pine nuts. I feel like it’s more earthy and complex with the balance tilted away from the basil. Hopefully the “lesson” sticks.

Container Garden Update — July 26, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.  July 27, 2014 post here.  July 28, 2013 post here.

We think we may have “figured something out” with the Tromboncino. I’ll share that first, then some harvest pictures, then everything else.

Last week a Tromboncino vine looked like this:

150719 tromboncino

The smaller of the two fruits withered over the next few days. I removed it midweek.

By Sunday the “winner” had grown to 28 inches(!)

150726 tromboncino1

It seems that each Tromboncino vine sends out two or three fruits at the same time, but can only really feed one fruit. The others just wither away. With that in mind, here are the next two candidates:

150726 tromboncino2

If within the next few days one starts to look sickly I’ll remove it. Maybe it’s possible for us to have two “winners” on one vine… as of right now, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

Onto the harvest pictures — Our total for the week was 16 pounds, including 3.7 pounds of zucchini, 1.7 pounds of pickling cucumbers, 4.9 pounds of Marketmore cucumbers, 4.9 pounds of Lemon cucumbers, some basil, and a few tomatoes.


150722 harvest


150723 harvest

Sunday. That’s the same zucchini as pictured above, with a smattering of Sweet Million and Sun Gold tomatoes. And an Iko Iko pepper that had a little bad spot on it so I pulled it:

150726 harvest

An overview. Note the ballistic basil on the far right:

150726 overview

Cucumbers (foreground), tomatillos (midground), and zucchini (rear). Also a bunch of energetic tomato vines. For reference, the tomatillo trellis is 6′ tall. The zucchini trellis is 8′:

150726 cucumber, tomatillo, tromboncino

Carmen peppers. The plants have been super vigorous:

150726 carmen

Sweet Millions:

150726 sweet million

The first Tigerellas are almost ready:


150726 tigerella

It rained today. Everything is a little more photogenic when wearing a few water droplets, I think.

2013 total weight to date:  24.6 pounds

2014 total weight to date:  22.3 pounds

2015 total weight to date:  56.4 pounds

More Progress!


Visit Daphne’s Dandelions, host of Harvest Monday.

The New Salad Table

by A.J. Coltrane

I’ve been thinking about building a salad table for a while. (Or “lettuce” table, depending upon the reference.) My feeling is that it was within my ability, though the result likely wouldn’t be pretty. I also wasn’t sure that I wanted to sink that much time into it. Then I thought, maybe I could modify something pre-built, like a utility cart. A little searching in catalogs and the internet led me to here. (Amazon link.)

It’s an “industrial” utility cart. The shelves are heavy wire and have a one-inch lip all the way around. Perfect.

That price didn’t seem crazy. Plus I’d be getting three shelves instead of just one. I also wouldn’t need to buy casters or hardware cloth, so I’d be saving $20-30 right there. I still needed to buy window screen ($6) and I used three 6′ pine boards (1″ x 4″ x 72″) at about $2.50 each. The total outlay was about $85, rather than $30-50.

But I think it’s pretty awesome. The total height is about 36″ — allowing for around 14″ between the shelves.

Here it is before installing the screen:

150722 lettuce table

And with the screen installed:

150722 lettuce table2

Now it just needs seeds and soil. That will probably happen early next week. Fun new toy!


Extra special thanks to SeattleAuthor for letting me use his tablesaw. (Really, he did all the cutting.) It saved me a bunch of time and labor, and the cuts came out tons better than I could have accomplished with a regular saw.


Ina Garten’s Creamy Cucumber Salad. Mostly.

by A.J. Coltrane

We had company over for grilling last night, and we have lots of cucumbers, so I made a creamy cucumber salad, using Ina Garten’s recipe as a starting point. Pictured is a family-style presentation:

150720 cucumber salad

Her salad calls for four hot-house cucumbers and two small red onions. The dressing is a 4-1 ratio of whole-milk yogurt to sour cream, flavored with dill, white wine vinegar, and pepper.

On the Barefoot Contessa tv show she uses greek yogurt and sour cream for dressing. Inspired by that, I used a small (6 oz) Greek yogurt and about 1.5 ounces of sour cream, flavored with fresh mint, dried oregano, cumin, and rice wine vinegar. It’s what we had available, and the flavorings pushed the recipe in a welcome Mediterranean direction.

The other difference between hers and the one pictured is that I didn’t have time to drain the cucumbers, onions, and yogurt for the 4+ hours (or overnight) called for in the recipe. For me, it needed to be done draining in about an hour. Longer might have been preferable, but the result was good with the shorter time allowed.

She suggests that this salad is a good substitute for cole slaw, and I think that’s accurate. It’s best served chilled, and it gets better when allowed to “marinate” for a while. It was definitely a nice change of pace from the other grilled foods we offered. We’ll be making it again for sure.

Container Garden Update — July 19, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous (non-mini/non-“harvest”) post here.  July 27, 2014 post here (note that the cucumbers in the 2nd picture of that post look nothing like the ones below on the left, though it’s the same variety.)  July 21, 2013 post here.

The hot weather continues, and the cucumbers continue to be “blocky”. Today’s harvest:

150719 harvest

Midweek. Oregon Spring and Taxis:

150717 harvest

18.8 pounds total for the period July 13-19, including 2.3 pounds of zucchini, and 15.6 pounds of all cucumber types.

An overview. Not much appears to be changing week to week, but that won’t be the case for long:

150719 overview

The next Tromboncino:

150719 tromboncino 2

Two smaller Tromboncino that are hopefully the next batch after that:

150719 tromboncino

The Black Krims are getting some size:

150719 black krim

The Tigerella:

150719 tigerella
Sun Golds:

150719 sun gold

The Taxis are almost ready to pop too:

150719 taxi

2013 total weight to date:  15.0 pounds

2014 total weight to date:  17.5 pounds

2015 total weight to date:  40.4 pounds




Visit Daphne’s Dandelions, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Mini Update — July 15, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

The Lemon cucumbers are really starting to ripen. As for the Marketmores, we must have missed these monsters over the weekend:

150715 harvest

(Left to Right):  Six Lemon cucumbers (2.3 lbs);  The two of the four cherry tomatoes that didn’t get eaten before Picture Time;  Three Marketmore 76 cucumbers (3.1 lbs);  One National Pickling cucumber (0.7 lbs).  6.2 pounds total.

The big cucumber weighs just under 1.5 pounds. It was lying sideways on the wood trellis, hiding behind a leaf. I’m hoping that we can peel it and most of it will be usable.

As a group, the cucumbers are starting to look a little haggard. But then, August is only two weeks away, so maybe the cucumbers should be approaching the end of their run.


For reference. Marketmore total weights each year, through July 15:

2013:  0 — none until July 18.   End of season total:  25,414g (56.0 lbs)

2014:  0 — none until July 28.   End of season total:  20,141g (44.4 lbs)

2015:  3932 g (8.7 lbs).       As a flat guess — the warm summer weather is causing the cucumbers to produce and age rapidly, and we’ll still see something around 40-55 pounds of Marketmores by the end of the year. The candle that burns twice as fast burns half as long. Accelerated Decrepitude.


Container Garden Harvest Update — July 12, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

The first really good week — total production of 15.4 pounds, including the 12.2 pounds harvested tonight:

150712 harvest

(Clockwise from top left) — Marketmore 76 cucumbers (4.1 lb);  the first Sun Gold and Sweet Million tomatoes;  National Pickling cucumbers (the darker two, 1 lb);  “Calypso” pickling cucumbers (1.5 lb);  Lemon cucumbers (0.7 lb);  Tromboncino zucchini (4.7 lbs)

We have zucchini bread and a bunch of cucumber salads in our future. Also zucchini crisps, post to come.


Visit Daphne’s Dandelions, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — July 12, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.  July 11, 2014 post here.  July 14, 2013 post here.

Some of the lower (south-facing) leaves of the tomato plants are fried-looking from the intense June sun. It’s been (thankfully) a little bit cooler the last few days. An overview:

150712 overview

The basil got a super thorough haircut this week. I made a point to “open it up”, trimming out some of the larger leaves and “excess” growth in the interior:

150712 basil

The yield was one pound of leaves. This is about half of it:

150712 picked basil

We’re still well ahead of last year. Lots of things are ripening. The first Sun Golds:

150712 sun gold

Sweet Millions:

150712 sweet million


150712 raspberry

Lemon cucumber:

150712 lemon cucumber

The Lemon cucumbers are sharing a box with two varieties of pickling cucumbers. The Lemon cucumbers are easily more prolific:

150712 lemon cucumbers

The tomatillos. People often mistake these for an ornamental — tomatillos aren’t mainstream:

150712 tomatillo

This “Yellow Bell Pepper” is the one plant that we purchased at the Master Gardener Plant Sale. There are a whole bunch of little fruits:

150712 yellow bell

The west facing Iko Iko peppers. The white stuff is diatomaceous earth. It’s intended to discourage bugs:

150712 iko iko

The east facing Iko Iko:

150712 iko iko2

Totally different… I’m not sure what to think.

The biggest King of the North:

150712 king of the  north

Below is the first pepper that the bugs have ruined this year. I cut it open, and nothing was inside. I’m guessing earwigs or stinkbugs, or… If anyone could tell me what what’s causing it I’d really appreciate it:

150712 king of the north2

Marketmore 76 cucumbers:

150712 marketmore

The Tromboncino. I think we’ll need to harvest the big ones to see new growth. As it is, they’re basically only making male flowers:

150712 tromboncino

Still no powdery mildew, so that’s nice.

What I’ll call the first “real” caprese of the year. It’s our basil with store-bought everything else. The garlic-cilantro balsamic is by Eleven Olives. They’re local. Highly recommended:

150712 caprese

EarthBox Mini Update — July 8, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

The Tromboncino zucchini had two large fruits on one vine, so I harvested the larger one with the idea that the other would get bigger, faster.

(Left to Right)  —  20″ Trombocino zucchini (853 grams, 1.9 lbs).  6″ Marketmore 76 cucumber (251 grams, 0.5 lbs).  Boy Cat looking for interesting smells.  Kitchenaid mixer:

150708 Tromboncino Cucumber

It feels like Marketmore cucumbers have been really “blocky” this year, at least so far.

(Picture taken at 9pm with natural light only, facing east. We just passed the solstice. I’m enjoying the late evening “bright” while it lasts.)