Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thinning, Weeding, Freezing

It has come to the point that some major action has had to take place.  We are finally getting our spring weather and the plants love it—as well as the weeds.  I have so enjoyed getting our nightly salad by simply picking off the leaves of the young plants, not bothering to thin, not even really bothering to weed much.  I saved one of those big plastic containers from Costco, one that at one time had lots of spinach, or those lovely young lettuces from California.  Now it holds the lettuces from my own salad garden, all nested between a couple of sheets of paper towel to maintain freshness.
But today, I realized the garden had gone beyond the just picking stage.  More was required.  Big leaves were shadowing young shoots.  All these seeds were now crowding to get more growing space.   Time to thin.  Time to weed.  I could get at the pesky chickweed that seems to overtake everything—though I suppose I could just as easily incorporate it as part of our nightly salad.  If I didn’t say it was a weed, no one would know the difference.
I did a new thing (for me, anyway) this year.  I planted companion seeds between the rows of what had begun to establish.  I thought it would help lessen the weed problem.  It turns out that was a pretty good idea.  I have cilantro and dill weed just beginning to get strong in between the already more developed radishes and turnips.  Even the alyssum is beginning to sprout.  With all this competition, maybe the weeds will give up more easily.
But there’s just so much salad that two people can eat.  The spinach was especially good this year.  I have never had such a splendid row of spinach.  It had to be this cool weather we’ve had.  I think I can even plant another crop before it gets too hot.  Maybe we won’t even get a summer this year.  Maybe it will stay cool all the way to fall.  And if summer ever does come, I know it won’t be until at least the middle of July.  That’s plenty of time for another go at the spinach.  I got a packet of New Zealand spinach seeds—technically not really spinach, but more adapted to warm weather.  
So now comes the serious thinning.  First, the turnips.  As I pull, I’ll keep the tops and freeze them as I will the spinach that I thin.  Radishes definitely have to be thinned because I planted them with carrots seeds—on purpose—as a natural thinner for the carrots.  The radishes are super fast growing and the carrots take more time.  So it’s easy to thin out the radishes to give room for the carrots.  At least, that is my hope.
I wasn’t too sure about this whole idea of freezing the fresh spinach.  I’ve never done this before, but I wanted so badly to be able to reach into the freezer in December or January and pull out a packet of fresh spinach from a summer garden.  Could I do this?  I have all kinds of ways of preserving the fruits of summer, from tomatoes to apples to plums to whatever is a bounteous fruit—but spinach?  I went on line—of course.  Now I have the beginning of a nice supply of summer sunshine in my freezer—and more to come.
Think about it: a packet of seeds costs between $1.79 and way more if you go the heirloom route.  A packet of spinach seed gives and gives and gives.  We have had fresh salads for at least a month.  The thinning process has given an additional bounty to freeze for later.  And there is still a huge amount of leaf out there.  There is still time to plant another early summer crop.   And I can plant a third crop in the fall (though I’ve tried and not been successful before.  I hate gardening in the cold and wet.)  If I buy a Costco tub of spinach (which is cheaper than the baby lettuces) at a little under $3.00, it is the equivalent of one gathering in the garden, which I can do again and again for $1.79 for the seed.

Freezing Spinach—or Other Leafy Greens
1 large pot of boiling water
1 large bowl of cold water with ice
Leafy greens
Zip-Lock bags ( sandwich size)
1 straw

Put two handfuls leafy greens in boiling water.  Blanch for 30 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon.  Immediately immerse in ice water for 30 seconds.  Lay on towel to remove excess moisture.  Gently place in Zip-Lock bag.  Put straw in bag and seal.  Suck on straw to remove excess air and moisture and quickly seal.  Freeze to enjoy in winter months.


  1. I like your idea of planting the radishes in the carrots. I'll need to note that for next year. We have been enjoying our lettuce/spinach for about a week. I should have started both sooner this spring but we were building our raised beds at that time. Glad to have found your blog! Cheers

  2. I tried planting like you did, with radishes and the carrots together but I neglected to keep the soil moist enough for any sprouting. Replanted and watering enough that I hope to get some spring garden eating, lol I think the PNW weather isn't planning on getting too hot too fast!

  3. Your spinach and greens will be a welcome choice during the dark days of winter. You can remember your sweet springtime garden :)

    I didn't know chickweed could go into salad .... I'll bet there's lots more so called weeds like that!