Sunday, April 5, 2020

All you need to know about growing carrots

Carrots come in all different colors and sizes
Sunday, April 5, 2020

Carrots are rich in antioxidants, beta-carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin C, many B-complex vitamins like folic acid, B6, thiamin, pantothenic acid, as well as minerals like calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper.  They are super easy to grow.

Carrots, like turnips, have been around for thousands of years.  Its seeds were used for medicinal purposes.  Carrots likely originated in the Iran/Afghanistan area and spread to the Mediterranean.  It is shown in Egyptian tomb paintings from 2000 BC. The first records that it was used for the European kitchen was in the 900‘s in Spain.  Carrots were originally used mainly for livestock feed in the American colonies and for its aromatic leaves and seeds.

The first wild carrots were purple.  The wild carrot is known as Queen Anne’s lace and adapted very well in America.  The popular culinary orange colored variety did not become stable until the 1700’s.  It quickly became the most popular variety in both Europe and the colonies.  Today, you can buy carrot seed for a variety of colors-yellow, white, red, purple, orange.  They also have a wide range of sizes.  They can grow quite long or can even be round.  

If you let your carrots go to seed, they send up stalks and have flowers that look just like Queen Anne's lace white, lacy blooms.  Carrots are prolific self seeders.  If you let one or two carrots go to seed, you will have baby carrots over winter that will come to full size in the spring.
Carrots getting ready to bloom
Carrots are related to parsley, fennel, dill and cumin.  Like their cousins, the greenery also is edible.  For full nutritional information on carrots, Nutritional info-raw carrots

Carrots like loose, well dug soil rich in organic matter although they will also grow in moderately rich soil.  The ideal soil would be dug 6-10” deep and mixed with sand and compost.  The longer the root, the deeper the depth of loose soil needed to grow large, straight roots.

There are also shorter root varieties that can be sown if you do not want to dig that deeply or if you want to grow them in pots.  Some short varieties are Little Finger (4” long), Adelaide (the size of your pinky), Short n Sweet (4”), Thumbelina (1-1.5” diameter), Parmex (1.2-2” diameter), Tonda di Parigi (1.5-2” diameter).

Sow every 2 weeks March-July.  First plantings should be about 2 weeks prior to your first frost.  Carrots do not like to be transplanted so direct sowing is best.  Soak seeds 6 hours before sowing.  Sow 1/4” deep, 1/2” apart thinning to 2-4”.  Keep evenly moist, do not allow to dry out, for the up to 14 day germination period.  Carrots are ready to harvest in 50-80 days.  Baby carrots can be harvested in 30-40 days.

For your last plantings of the season look for a type like Autumn King or Nantes that can be harvested throughout the winter.  Merida can be planted in late September for an early spring harvest.  Frost actually makes the carrots sweeter so leaving them in the ground in the fall will improve their flavor.  All kinds of colors are now available-white, red, orange, yellow, and purple.

If you want to bring the harvested carrots indoors to store, placing in a cool place in sand that is kept moist is the best indoor long term storage for the winter.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes

Radishes come in many sizes and pretty colors
Saturday, April 4, 2020

Radishes are some of the easiest and fastest to grow veggie in the garden!  They can be grown in the garden bed or a pot.  Radishes are quick to sprout and ready to eat in just 3-4 weeks.  

Radishes originated in China and moved west, being domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times.  It came in many different forms and colors.  There was the long rooted form that could get as big around as 6” or so and a round form that is most popular today.  Most were generally white, but there was also black.  

The short topped, red radish we know today was developed in the 1600’s.  They reached the American colonies in the late 1700’s.  The long rooted variety was the most popular until the 1900’s. 

Radishes provide anti-oxidants, phytochemicals, lutein, beta carotene, the vitamins B6, C and riboflavin as well as the minerals calcium, copper, iron, and magnesium.  They are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid and potassium.    Nutritional info

Radishes can be peppery or mild and come in many colors and sizes.

Radishes enjoy the same type of soil as carrots-loose, well dug rich in organic matter.  The ideal soil would be dug 4-6” deep (if growing the round variety) and mixed with sand and compost.  If interplanting with carrots or growing the long rooted type, a deeper digging is needed 6-9”. 

Many recommend mixing radish seeds, carrot seeds and sand together and sowing the seed this way since the carrot and radish seeds are so small.  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round  The radishes sprout very quickly and are ready to harvest well before the carrots. Radishes can be sown with beets and turnips as well. You get two crops in one this way.  All about beautiful beets  All about turnips

Radishes are also planted as a “trap crop” for flea beetles.  The flea beetles will be attracted to the radishes and leave other crops alone.  The flea beetles may make the radish greens look sad, but have no affect on the root itself.

Like carrots, radishes can be sown in the spring or fall. The seeds germinate quickly, just in 3-5 days. For spring, radishes can be sown as early as 3-4 weeks prior to last frost (when the early daffodils bloom) and first pickings will be ready in 3-4 weeks.  Harvest in the morning.  Both the roots and leaves are edible.

Radishes should be planted 1/2” deep, in rows 1-2’ apart.  They should be thinned to 2-6” apart, depending on the size of radish planted. 
For winter harvesting, sow in late summer or fall.  Roots are sweetest after a frost.  You can still eat the roots when the greenery has died back.  Just dig down with your trowel to release the sweet root from the ground.  Mulch in the fall and harvest when needed.

We found the White Icicle variety to be mild and enjoyed them in salads.  The red varieties typically are hotter.  The radishes will increase in heat as the temperatures rise.  Pick early for milder taste or later in the day for more of a kick.

Choose the round varieties if you have hard soil and do not want to dig deeply or if you want to grow in pots.  Radishes are equally happy in the garden bed or pots.  They are a really fun crop for kids, too, and come in so many colors.  A really pretty addition to any salad.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How to grow broccoli and cauliflower

Cauliflower with inner leaves folding in
Sunday, March 29, 2020

Broccoli is touted as a “super food.”  It is chock full of vitamins and minerals A, B6, C, E, K, protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, and others.  Cauliflower is an age-old standby and has great nutritional value as well-protein, vitamins B6, C, K, folate, many minerals-potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and others.  Both are healthy and versatile.  Broccoli nutrition   Cauliflower nutrition

Broccoli is a kale.  It is thought its ancestor came from the eastern Mediterranean and was developed into the first “broccoli” with the distinct florets we grow them for today.  Purple was the preferred form in colonial times and is coming back as a popular form today.  

Cauliflower is from the same family as broccoli.  The earliest accounts of the vegetable share its origins as Cypress.  It was the English that developed it into the form we enjoy today.  Cauliflower came to the colonies in the 1600's.  Both were some of the first vegetables to make the trip to colonies.  Colonial Vegetable Garden

For planting, purple sprouting broccoli must be planted in the fall for a spring harvest.  Other types of sprouting broccoli, broccoli and cauliflower can be planted in the spring and fall.  Sow when the first crocus blooms in spring (March in my zone) or when phlox and asters bloom for fall plantings (July).

Today, there are many varieties that have different days to maturity.  You can plant a variety to get a continuous supply, even in the dead of winter.  Cauliflower comes in many colors today-white, orange, green, chartreuse, and purple.

If growing from seed for spring, you will start your seedlings indoors 6-8 weeks prior to average date of the last frost.  They are ready to transplant when they have 5-6 leaves.  You can get transplants now that are ready to plant now at many nurseries and big box stores.

Here is a link to frost dates:  Frost dates
You can change the settings to how lucky you are feeling.  Choosing 50% would be the average date of the last frost.  Changing it to 30% chance means there is only a 30% chance, on average, you will get another frost.

I typically use the 50% as a gauge on when to start watching the extended forecast.  When it looks like there is a good run of warm weather, I plant.  This year, it has been a roller coaster.  We have had some really warm spells and then cool spells.  Overall, the average has been well above normal.

You can grow both in pots as well.  I grow my sprouting broccoli in a pot every year along with lettuce.  Look for compact varieties of cauliflower that are great in pots.
As with most vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower enjoy a fertile soil so enrich the soil with compost.  Plant about 18" apart.  Add an inch of compost and supplement with a high nitrogen fertilizer when planting, like composted chicken manure.  Give another dressing of fertilizer just when heads begin to form.  They like cool soil temps so mulching will boost your harvests.  Be sure to rotate the location where you plant in the garden as broccoli does attract pests.  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens  Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays

For cauliflower, the new varieties have been bred so that their inner leaves remain over the floret.  If you plant an heirloom or if your new variety does not have its leaves behave, you should to take the largest leaves and place over the floret and secure if you want pure white heads.  If the white floret is exposed to sun, it will yellow.  The curds must have formed before the temperatures reach 80 degrees.

To get extend harvests, plant different varieties with varying days to maturity.  Just look for "Days to Harvest" on the seed packet to get succession harvesting types.  Broccoli should be harvested before the florets open; cauliflower when the outer florets begin to separate.  Don't worry if you harvest later than that, they'll still taste great.  I think it is pretty to add broccoli florets with their pretty yellow flowers to salads.
Broccoli flowering
For broccoli, the sprouting type keep on giving.  When you harvest the center floret, you will get side shoots sometimes for weeks afterwards.  The leaves of broccoli tastes just like the florets.  They are great to add to salads and provide leaves even in the heat of summer when most lettuce has left the garden party.  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav

If you want a little bit of both broccoli and cauliflower, try the heirloom variety “Nine Star Perennial.”  It really is a perennial!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

April 2020 Edible Garden Planner

Early April lettuce and spinach
Saturday, March 28, 2020

April showers bring May flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables.  Now is the perfect time to get serious on getting your spring garden planted and sowed!  I have seeds and plants going indoors and outdoors.

Crops to plant in April
Early April is a perfect time to plant cold season crops like Brussels sprouts, fava beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard and turnips.  Outdoor transplant calendar

See this post for what to plant in April as well as links on how to grow each veggie.  What to plant in the April edible garden

I am planting sprouting broccoli this spring.  I did not plant it last year due to pest issues the year before.  I'll treat with BT, which is an organic treatment to keep the caterpillars from munching down the leaves.  Sprouting broccoli is one of my favorite edibles.  The leaves taste like broccoli and are sweet all through spring, summer and fall.  You also get little broccoli florets to eat on and off through the season.  It is also very cold tolerant and can survive winters here.  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav

We can still get frosts in April so you want to hold off on planting warm season crops outdoors like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and squash until May unless you cover them or bring them indoors if frost does visit your garden.  Extend the season with protection for plants

I transplanted lettuce and spinach plants outdoors.  I have already sown lettuce, spinach, kale, potatoes, radishes, beets and chervil seed in pots outdoors.  I started seeds indoors for Chinese cabbage, cilantro, Dragon's Tail radish for late spring, early summer harvests.  Overwintered celery, parsley, carrots, chives, onions, cultivated dandelion, sorrel, tarragon, sage, thyme, arugula, kale, leeks and corn salad are up and ready to eat.

To keep yourself in lettuce all season, do succession planting of new seeds or plants every 2-3 weeks.  Just plant the number you would normally eat in a 2-3 week period.  This will keep salads on the table continuously.  Want continuous harvests? Succession planting! 

If this is your first year in gardening, here are some pointers on what to choose what to grow and get your garden going What to plant for your first garden  Easy kitchen garden   If you don't have much space you can still grow a garden either in pots or in a garden spot as little as 6" by 6'. Veggies for small spaces

To get a jump on summer harvests, I started a variety of edibles indoors on the kitchen counter in both my Aerogarden and peat pods.  For the large seedlings like cucumber, squash, and watermelon, I start these in peat pods.  The rest I start in the Aerogarden.  I have had great success in the Aerogarden in germination rates.  It is really close to 100% across all types of seeds.  
Aerogarden on the right, peat pods on the left

The varieties started indoors: tomatoes, peppers, okra, chard, celery, rosemary, lavender, basil, garden chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, fennel, chamomile, dill, stevia, sprouting broccoli, broccoli raab, asparagus, kale, rhubarb, Chinese cabbage, variegated cress, variegated plantain, borage, Alpine strawberries, eggplants, New Zealand spinach, morning glory, marigolds, Hummingbird vine, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, watermelons, cilantro, Flat of Italy onion, wild basil, tyron, eucalyptus, white sage, and corn salad.
When you plant, make sure to fertilize and add mycorrhizae in each planting hole. Mycorrhizae are beneficial microbes that help your plant roots absorb nutrients from the soil.  Once mycorrhizae is added in that spot, it will live on in the soil so it does not have to be reapplied next year in that spot.

I like to apply fertilizer, add a thick layer of compost and top with mulch before I begin planting.  Just mulch by itself breaks down and adds organic matter to the soil.  This year I was slow to get the soil sample done so we have already mulched to keep the weeds down.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

If you didn't do a soil test (you can use a kit from a garden store/big box store or have your local extensions office analyze it), use a balanced organic fertilizer like Espoma at the rate recommended.  You can make your own all natural, organic fertilizer, too, inexpensively.  Here is the link:  Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive  If you did not fertilize the entire garden bed before planting, be sure to add fertilizer to each planting hole per the directions on the package.  Crops will need that burst of energy for the quick growth that spring brings. 

If you want to have an in-depth soil analysis done to create a fertilizer specific to your soil, here is a blog on who to send your sample to and how to get a personal fertilizer recipe  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

If you are re-using pots from last year, here is a link to get your potting soil ready to nourish your new plants:  Re-energize your potting soil!  It is important to get your potting soil ready to support this season's growth and veggie production.  Be sure when you fertilize to mix it into the soil or apply before you put down a protective and organic layer of mulch.  This keeps the nitrogen from oxidizing and escaping into the air instead of staying in the ground to nourish your plant.  This year, I did all my pots.  I added 1 part compost to 2 parts potting soil, Azomite for minerals, and Espoma fertilizer.  My plants should have everything they need for a strong start to the growing season.
Chives and lettuce in  mid-April garden

Frost date importance
The last frost date in our area is around April 15th.  This is important to know if you are planting seeds.   Frost date look up  The seed packet tells you when to plant in relation to your last frost date.  You will get the best results following the packet instructions.  Planting early is not always a good strategy as different seeds need different soil temperatures before they will germinate.  Plant too early and they can rot before they have a chance to sprout.  When to plant your veggies

Pots will warm up quicker, but will also chill down faster.  You can put your pots in a sheltered, sunny spot to get a jump on spring.  Putting your pots on the south side of the house will provide the maximum warmth.  I lover planting greens in a large self watering pot that I can keep on the patio, making it handy for picking a fresh salad for dinner, and to move to a cooler spot in the hot days of summer.  

When growing veggies in containers, they will require more watering and more liquid fertilizer than if they were in the ground.  In the summer, you may have to water some water lovers every day.  For more on growing in pots.  Decorative container gardening for edibles  
With the self-watering pots, your watering duties will be greatly reduced.

Lettuce, greens, and herbs do fabulous this month.  It is the time to indulge in daily salads. and smoothies.  Cool temperatures and lots of moisture produce the sweetest greens of the season.  

This year, you may have more time or just want to be sure you can get fresh veggies.  Here is a garden that meets that need, even if you only have a small space, like a flower bed.  Small space survival edible garden  

Sunday, March 22, 2020

What we are harvesting and starting in the late March garden

Seeds sprouting

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Our spring has been seesawing in temperatures.  Daffocils, crocus, Bradford pear trees, forsythias, dandelions, and hyacinths are all blooming.  We have not had much sun this month so growth in the garden has been slow.  What is up and ready to eat are the greens, some herbs, and onions. 

Right now, the French and Blood veined sorrel up and ready to harvest, garlic chives are up, celery is going strong, onions are already bigger than green onion size, cress is a good size, lettuce and kale have leaves large enough to cut, there are overwintered baby carrots and dandelion greens.  The spinach that I bought as transplants have leaves to harvest.

Other herbs that are greening out-thyme, parsley, oregano, mint, tarragon.
I started seeds outdoors in pots over the last couple of weeks-spinach, chervil, lettuce, snow peas, Icicle radishes, Ruby Streaks mustard and Chiogga beets.  I started the lettuce and spinach in shallow pots that I can dig and move them to other spots after they have sprouted and are sturdy.  They are all cool weather lovers so will germinate in these chilly days.

I started seeds indoors as well.  Most are the summer crops that won't germinate in this cold weather.  I will also start indoors in my Aerogarden or in a peat pellet cool season crops that I am only growing one or two of.

Warm season crops seeded:
Alpine Strawberries-Mignonette and Regina
Cucumbers-Miniature White, Bush Champion, Spacemaster
Eggplant-Casper, Amadeo, Italian Pink Bicolor
Flowers-Marigolds to border the garden
Greens-Chinese cabbage Hilton, Variegated plantain, New Zealand spinach, Swiss Chard Verde De Taglio and Fordhook Giant
Herbs-rosemary, basil, lavender, oregano, marjoram, thyme, Florence and ZefaFino fennel, German chamomile, stevia, Wild Basil, White Sage, borage
Okra-Baby Bubba (dwarf)
Peppers-Tangerine Dream, chocolate red pepper from saved seed, JalapeƱo, Long Thin Cayenne
Summer squash-Zucchini Bush, Early Prolific
Tomatoes (Dwarfs-Front Runner Hybrid, Roma, Bush Steak Hybrid, Patio Princess Hybrid, Little Napoli.  Full size-Cherokee Purple, big and small chocolate tomato from saved seed, Italian Heirloom Red Pear, Black Krim, Red Gezahnte, Chocolate Pear)
Watermelon-Bush Sugar Baby (dwarf)

Cool season crops seeded indoors:
Onions-Flat of Italy.  A red onion heirloom.
Cilantro-regular and SloBolt
Greens-Tyfon, Corn Salad, Tuscan Kale, Black Magic Kale, Dragon's Tail Radish, American Winter Variegated Cress
Asparagus-Mary Washington
Broccoli-Raab and Sprouting
Celery-Utah Improved

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Small space survival edible garden

Egyptian walking onion in a pot
Saturday, March 21, 2020

Spring is here and so is the coronavirus pandemic.  This spring we were planning on doing an addition on our house which meant moving my current edible garden to a less ideal spot (more shade and soil has not been built up over years) that is much smaller than my normal garden.  Now, I need to utilize the new, smaller space to try to grow everything we need to eat.  This is my plan and the varieties I am growing.  This should meet all of our needs for spring, summer, fall and winter for produce.

If you are just starting out and have limited space, look for descriptions like “patio”, “compact”, “great for pots”, “container”, etc.  Burpee seeds also have a clay pot decal on all their seed packets that will do well in pots or small spaces.

Beets (55 days to harvest)-Any.  I plant these around my pepper plants in pots.  All about beautiful beets

Carrots (65 days to full size)-get the short ones like Atlas and Parisian to grow in pots.  I am not much of a carrot person so I am not planting any right now.  I do have volunteers coming up in the garden bed that I can pull when I need a carrot for cooking.  All you need to know about growing carrots

Celery (125 days to full size) surprisingly does very well in a pot by itself.  It loves water so I would keep it by itself.  I have had great luck with Utah Improved.  I did see a pink one I would like to try just for fun, Chinese Pink Celery.  Give celery a try, an easy to grow garden staple

 (60 days to full size) grows well in pots.  I am growing Verde De Taglio and Fordhook Giant as they are supposed to be hardy in my zone and keep their sweet taste in summer.  Chard comes in beautiful colors, too, so you can plant them in your flower bed as an ornamental that you get to snack on.  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!

Cucumber (55 days)-Miniature White, Bush Champion, Spacemaster are the ones I have started inside.  Rocky and Lemon are other options for pots.  How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden

Eggplant (65-80 days from transplanting)-All I have tried in a pot grows well.  For flavor, I like Casper as it is more forgiving in our hot summers and does not get bitter in the dog days of summer.  Other small varieties include Fairy Tale, Gretel, Hansel, India Paint, and Thai Purple Blush hybrid.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

A word about hybrids.  If you want to save seed, hybrids will not come back true to the “mother” plant.  You will want open pollinated or heirloom varieties for seed saving.  The strength of hybrids is that they have been bred to withstand different common diseases.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Green beans (64 days to harvest)-I use pole beans and a trellis so they grow up.  If you don’t like removing the “string” that some green beans have, look for “stringless.”  We really like the flat Italian type of green bean.  I am growing Romano (Italian) and Blauhilde (French likely of German origin).  Produces right up until frost.  The great thing about beans is that they make nitrogen so they fertilize the soil.  I plant petunias in the same pot.  Be sure to treat the seed with inoculant to give the roots the support they need to grow well.  Growing beans

(leaves can be picked when small)-I am growing Bonnie spinach, Red Sails lettuce, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, plantain, Verde De Taglio and Fordhook Giant chard, Tuscan, Dinosaur, and Black Magic kale, Sprouting broccoli, Broccoli Raab, Chinese cabbage Hilton to use as wraps,  variegated winter cress, New Zealand spinach, and arugula.  I am growing all my greens in pots.  Almost any green can be grown in pots and there are lots of options to choose from! Growing fabulous lettuce and greens 

I plant the ones that enjoy cool weather in the early spring and then switch to those that are heat tolerant in late spring.  My go-to favorites for summer hardiness are chard, sprouting broccoli, New Zealand spinach, Chinese cabbage, and Red Sails lettuce.  Growing summer salads

Herbs-Are great to have in the garden.  I have a mix of herbs I use to season everything, from eggs to sauces to meats to stews, you name it.  All made from herbs I grow in the garden.  Herbs are carefree, too, and can be grown anywhere there is good sun.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"   I also grow cilantro (40-60 days to full size) in early spring and Slo Bolt cilantro in late spring for salsa.  It grows well in a pot or in the ground.  Basil is an herb that can be grown in the ground or a pot.  The bees love them.  I love the  fragrance and the pesto I make from it!  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

For sweetener, we have bees and I am growing Stevia.  A sweet alternative-grow your own

Okra (53 days)-I have started Baby Bubba okra which can be grown in a pot.  Regular okra can grow 8' tall.  This dwarf will reach less than 3'.  Growing and harvesting okra 

Onions and leeks (20-30 days for scallions)-I grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot because they are perennial.  You can use the bulb for cooking and the tops as chives, harvesting year round.  Egyptian walking onions  Chives and garlic chives are also great for small spaces or pots.  I grow my chives in the garden.  They do well there and don't take up much space.  Add chives to your garden  This spring, I am also growing red onions from seed, Flat of Italy.  I tuck leeks  in around other plants in the garden, but they can also be grown in a pot.  Onions-everything you need to know to grow 'em

Peas (72 days)-I grow short vine snow peas that I plant in pots.  I prefer these because you can eat the whole pod.  You just get a lot more food from a vine than ones grown just for the peas inside the pod.  I have already planted those around the edge in large pots that I will also plant peppers or eggplant.  The snow peas keep producing into early summer just as the peppers and eggplants are filling out.  Time to plant peas!

Peppers (70-75 days to harvest)-I have found that hot peppers do great in pots.  I plant one pepper type per pot.  Sweet peppers, like Bell, seem to do best in the ground.  I grow the smaller sweet peppers in pots.  They seem to produce more per plant than the large sweet peppers.  I am growing Tangerine Dream and a dark red pepper I have saved from seed for a few years.  Peppers are for every taste and garden

Potatoes (new potatoes in 70 days)-We are growing purple potatoes in the potato boxes my hubby made for me.  You can also grow them in grow bags you can get on-line.  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a pa...

Radishes (45 days to harvest)-Icicle radish is my favorite.  It is a long white radish without the heat of the typical radish.  Radishes are quick to sprout and grow.  I also like Rat's Tail radish which is grown for its up to 14" seed pod.  The seed pod does have the taste of radish, produces all summer, and is a great add to salads.  I sow radishes directly in pots in early spring.  Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes

Summer squash (45 days to harvest)- I have started Bush Zucchini and Early Prolific Squash indoors.  Other options for summer squash that can be grown in pots are Lunar Eclipse/Sunburst, Piccolo, Small Wonder Spaghetti squash.  Everything you need to know to grow squash

Winter squash (80-100 days)-I am not growing any winter squash, but if you are a squash lover, try Acorn or butternut.  Plant where you are okay with them running on the ground or train them up a trellis.  You will get about 2 per vine.  

Tomatoes (65-80 days)-look for patio or container types.  Varieties like Balcony Patio Princess, Balcony, Tumbler, Lizzano, BushSteak, Tumbling Tom to name  a few.  Bush types are also great for small spaces-Early Girl Hybrid Bush, Big Boy Bush, Baxter’s Bush Cherry.  They will give you enough for fresh eating all summer.  You'll probably need about 2 for slicers and 2 for salads.  Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

We use a lot of tomatoes for both eating but also for freezing and sauce.  I will plant tomatoes in the garden and use the indeterminate which grow large.  I grow 3 kinds: a paste tomato, a slicer, and a small tomato for using in salads.  I like including a paste tomato when I freeze the extras.  They make a silky smooth soup and sauce.  Cherokee Purple is a prolific in our garden for slicers.  I like a small chocolate tomato or any pear tomato for salads.  My go-to for sauce is Italian Red Pear paste tomato.  
Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes  One change I am making in growing tomatoes this year is that I am going to use an organic fungal control.  Our summers are always humid and it stresses tomatoes.  I am going to use Serenade at transplant and repeat after it rains.  I'll alternate with a Copper fungicide.  Organic fungicides are a preventative so you have to use it even before you start seeing issues.

Watermelons (80 days)-started seeds for Bush Sugar Baby.  My granny always grew watermelons.  I am going to try this little one in our garden this summer.  It can be grown in a pot.  I'll have to see how the space works out if it will go in a pot or in the garden.

There are many other varieties out there for small spaces.  Vegetables you can grow in pots

   Be sure to prepare your potting soil and garden bed for optimal growing.  For my pots, I took out all the old potting soil out, mixed it with compost (leaf or garden compost), perlite, fertilizer and Azomite.  I add compost for refreshing organic matter, perlite to lighten the soil, and Azomite for a wide range of minerals.  You need to add fertilizer to the soil before you plant and then on-going through the growing season so your plants have all the nutrition they need to produce well.  Re-energize your potting soil!     If money is tight, you can make your own fertilizer on the cheap.  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Preservation garden

Sunday, March 15, 2020

If you are interested in being more self-sufficient, to have nutritious food at the ready, reduce your food bill or just want to save the extras from the garden this year, there are simple ways to preserve many different crops from the garden: freezing Freezing the extras for winter, drying Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies, canning Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty, and pickling.

I only do canning of high acid vegetables like tomatoes or pickling so only a large pot is needed.  If you decide to can low acid vegetables, then a high pressure canner is needed.  Sites & resources for canning

Crops that are easy to put away for year round eating:
Beets, Basil, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Green Beans, Greens, Herbs, Onions, Peas and Snow Peas, Peppers, Tomatoes and Squash.

The easiest to start with are herbs.  Spices are very expensive in the store.  Herbs are carefree and produce alot that can be dried or frozen to use year round.  My 2 favorites are making pesto from basil (Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil) and using a variety of dried herbs to make “Herbes De Provence” (Make your own "Herbes de Provence") that I add to almost every dish!  Since most herbs are from the Mediterranean region, they thrive in mediocre soil and dry conditions.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

For spring and fall planting for a preservation garden
Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, garlic, greens, cool season herbs like cilantro and parsley, onions, peas, potatoes and snow peas.

Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, greens, and snow peas should be blanched and then frozen.  Blanching stops the degradation of the vegetable in the freezer, increasing the shelf life to months.  Blanching simply means putting into boiling water and then immediately into ice water or very cold water to stop the cooking of the vegetable.  For the bigger veggies, 3 minutes in boiling water is sufficient.  For greens, just a couple of minutes.  After blanching, remove the excess water.  I like to then put on a cookie sheet in the freezer in a single layer.  After freezing, I put in freezer bags.  This way your veggies will defrost quicker and you can remove only what you want to use for that meal.  If just put directly into the freezer bag, they will all freeze together in one big block.

You can also dry any vegetable, store in a sealed jar, and rehydrate when needed for cooking.  The trick is to make sure that they are dried enough that they will not mold.  If in doubt, your dried produce can be stored in the frig or freezer, taking up much less room than the whole vegetable.

I also like to grow sprouting broccoli as it can be harvested from for 8 months of the year.  Carrots and onions can be left in the ground over the winter and pulled when needed.  My favorite onion to grow is Egyptian walking onion.  It produces a small bulb that is just the right size for using for one meal.  It can be grown in a pot, too, and harvested year round.  Egyptian walking onions

Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in mid summer.  There are 3 ways I preserve garlic.  One is to harden off and keep several garlic bulbs to use fresh.  The second is to separate the cloves and put into vinegar with peppers.  I store these jars in the refrigerator.  This preserves the garlic and adds a little kick.  The third is to dry some garlic cloves to make garlic powder.  Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder

Preserving the garden's bounty
For summer planting of a preservation garden: 
Corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, warm season herbs like basil and rosemary, peppers, squash.

I don't blanch my summer vegetables before freezing.  If you want to keep them in the freezer longer than 4-6 months, blanching is the best way to go.  For small peppers, I freeze them whole. Peppers a Plenty in September  Large peppers and all tomatoes, I slice and freeze.   As the tomato harvest heats up, any that we can't eat, I freeze.  Come fall when it cools off, I will take all of last year's frozen tomatoes and make into sauce.  A few tomato plants give us enough to freeze and make sauce for the coming year.  Preserving the tomato harvest 

  For peppers, I also make hot sauce Quick tip-make your own hot sauce and dry them to make chili powders.

For eggplant and squash, I like to freeze them whole.  When I am ready to eat them, I slice them while frozen and grill.  If you are going to use them in recipes, I would cut them into the size you want to use in your recipes, blanch and freeze.  This past summer, I made spaghetti and lasagna noodles them, blanched them and froze them in quart bags.  For the lasagna noodles, first lay them flat on a cookie sheet to freeze before putting into a freezer bag.  What to do with all that zucchini?!   

Green beans, I break into the size I will use in my recipes and freeze.  Cucumbers I make into pickles.  Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix  For corn, the easiest way to store is just blanching the whole ear of corn.  After removing the silks, you can either freeze whole or slice off the cob and freeze the kernels.

All your summer vegetables can be dried as well.  Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

Now you are ready to eat fresh and preserve the extras to get you through to next year's garden!