•June 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Some fruits of spring labor, and a much-needed vacation.  At the beach, early morning coffee and cleaning out the camera finding that we have had productive spring harvest.  12 pounds of English peas, 5 pounds of baby cosmic purple carrots, 5 pounds of broccoli, 20 pounds of egg turnips and about 30 pounds of turnip greens to go with them, and 15 pounds of 5-color silverbeet chard.

Tomatoes have been moved to their final homes all around the garden and everything is starting to soak up the sun’s energy and get big and leafy.  Important urban garden knowledge gathered this spring:

1.  Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts take a LOT of room and don’t really yield much.  Not the ideal choice for a small gardening space.

2.  Turnips are a 2 for one deal.  Not only do you get the root, but the leaf production almost doubles the root production.

3.  Silverbeet Chard is VERY low maintenance and grows well in a tight space.

4.  Due to bed space and timing we had to pull the carrots early so they were on the small side.  Great producers, but needed more than just the spring to reach full growth.

Always something to learn when the dirt starts moving.  Time to start fighting back the summer weeds and move in to squash and tomato season.


No Mercy

•May 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

May 31, 2011.  90 degrees, 90% humidity.  Its way to early to be this hot!  I’ve already got cherry tomatoes forming!  I managed to grow 10 whopping pounds of English peas.  Not really a whole lot, but plenty to keep us occupied for the spring season.  Ten pounds of egg turnips have been harvested so far plenty more to come.  We have been showcasing them in a recent Bison special.  Below are pictures from our recent SPCA benefit auction dinner.

If this weather continues, I’m going to have squash from seed in a week!

It’s alive!!!

•May 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It looks as though one of our apple trees is actually going to produce fruit!  After a serious whacking (pruning) back in February, we weren’t real sure how the two trees would fair.  So far so good;  the other tree doesn’t seem to have blossomed so we may have lost out, but as long as the trees are stronger and thinned out to produce better next year we have succeeded.  The rose bushes around the parking lot are always a good indicator of when its time to start putting transplants in.  They have really shown off their beauty this year as well, not a single bush has closed buds.

On a sour note, after putting our squash transplants in the new beds, it doesn’t appear that we have fixed the “no growth” problem yet.  They seem to be yellowing and just staying the same size, going to need to do some research and get a professional soil test done to see what we need to do to get them productive.   Its going to be a real bummer if we lose 2 months of seedling growth to a non-productive bed again.

Army of Peas

•April 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So some frost damage ate up my cabbage hopes, but the broccoli and cauliflower are holding strong.  Carrots and chard are starting to muscle their way through the topsoil nicely now.  The real success story goes to the peas though.  They seem to spring up about half an inch a night now.  Little green soldiers fighting off the remnants of winter’s last tendrils.  Warmer days have really started to push them along. The 1st round of compost has been moved to the 2nd stage of decomposition so its time to start another barrel.

Indoors the summer seedlings are doing great.  Squash is already 4-5 inches tall and all of the tomato varieties have successfully sprouted.  The apple trees have budded and bloomed after a brutal pruning in February so there is still hope they may yet survive.  They really needed some extra shaping work if they were going to stand any chance of surviving another season or produce fruit for that matter.  The beginnings of the spring menu are starting to roll out in the restaurant, so once we get the presentations nailed it will be great to have some new food to photograph.  New garden, new staff, new spring to pull out of the depths of the cold weather season.

Ready for Spring to be Sprung

•April 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

First morels, couple of warm days to tease, one hundred percent ready for the cold to make its exit and move into a new season of food.  Amongst a couple others, just a few pics here from the Michael Shaps wine dinner we did on March 29th.  The pork belly and lamb were definitely stars of the show.  Definitely one of the best pork belly dishes I’ve had the pleasure of eating.  Smoked white bean puree, homemade blueberry “jam” and a sourdough crisp.  No credit to me on this dinner as I happened to find the rare weekend off and spent it in the Outer Banks while the rest of the staff completed all the prep.  Execution was about all I had to offer to the party once I was back.   A really nice dessert to follow it all up.  Great meal.

happyholidayshappynewyearsnewsoussmokeclears…… Now its march!

•March 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

And that is about how it went.  Quite a holiday season we had at the hotel.  Just now getting through the madness.  I’ve been graciously promoted to Sous Chef, and have plenty of work to do.  Garden has once again been started…… INDOORS this year!!   We received the go ahead to use the greenhouse and so our seeds are already pushing 3-4 inch sprouts!   Couple weeks till they go out as we try to sneak out an early Spring crop before the tomatoes and squash take over everything.  Trying to get Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage a head start.  Chard, turnips, and peas to go straight into the ground.   Had plenty of photos, just no time.  I guess the Flu is good for something…

Full Circle

•November 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Back where it all started.  There wasn’t much success had from our fall crop attempt, lack of attention and change in sun pattern made it pretty tough to get things going.  Valuable lessons are about the only things we’re going to harvest this winter.    All considered, not a bad first season.  After looking back through the harvest journal here are the numbers:

For the fresh Herbs we grew approximately 65 pounds of usable product.  Taking the prices from our current purveyors, this would have cost the restaurant roughly $766.50.  Quite a showing for very little work when it comes to herb production.

For the Vegetables:  We grew approximately 151 pounds of produce priced at just over $400.00. Much more work than the herbs and not quite the cost return I had expected.  When it comes to the vegetables, you are not looking at very lucrative savings.  The rewards here come from fresh flavors and the satisfaction of personal involvement.  You can’t really put a price on the satisfaction of picking ripe tomatoes and okra every couple of days, or watching the family of birds that moved in over the summer produce numerous little birds as a result of having an accessible open food source and a safe place to live.

Take out the $150.00 that we spent on seeds, plants, supplies and growing we produced about $1000.00 worth of product for the restaurant this season at a mere 12% cost.  Not bad production for 600 square foot corner of a parking lot.  With more planning and better production out of our new beds, I’m pretty confident we can double the output with very little, if any, increase to cost.

Other things to note,  we’ve procured a key to the greenhouse next to the garden so I should be able to get an early jump on seedlings so they are nice and strong by the spring.  I managed to save plenty of okra and bronze fennel seeds to start next years plants.  Aside from the tomatoes,  they were probably our next strongest producers.  Also, throughout the summer and continuing now through the winter we save all of the scrap oyster shells from the hotel in hopes of lining the walkways throughout the garden once there are enough.  That will give me an excuse to get out there and play through the winter clearing out the sparse pea gravel that does a poor job of lining the walkways presently.  Interesting as well:  the building behind the garden has just been remodeled into a seven eleven.  I’m curious to see how the smells of newly applied compost and fertilizer mingling with the aromas of fresh brewed coffee attract the VCU campus passerby.  Laughably, we may have a civil dispute on our hands and this will almost certainly close the book on getting a bee colony started.  Tough break.

With Thanksgiving now gone, the giant Christmas tree looms stoically in the lobby of the hotel in preparation for tonight’s “Grand Illumination”.  This ought to bring a spike in business (mostly burger driven by my best guess) to the restaurant.   I don’t imagine I’ll ever get much of a culinary charge out of the holiday restaurant business surge or burger sales for that matter, but its a small price to pay in the grand cycle to keep the doors open and ensure that I’m back out in the dirt come spring!