Saturday, April 20, 2019

Grow herbs indoors

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Herbs will grow indoors, too.  They will not be as large or bushy as grown outdoors.  Indoor herbs provide nice fragrance and make it easy to access for cooking.

Indoors, the plants will not get nearly as much sunlight as outdoors.  The herbs that can grow in this lower light level:
Lemon Balm

Plant in pots at least 6" diameter and put in a sunny window.  The above herbs will grow in containers either indoors or outdoors.

Most you can grow from seed or buy a transplant from a nursery or big box store.  For seed starting, Indoor seed starting tips

Herbs don't need a lot of fertilizer.  I would apply a liquid fertilizer about once a month when you water. The number one cause of indoor plant death is overwatering!  Let the soil dry out between waterings.

I actually got started in edible gardening by growing herbs indoors during the winter.  In the spring, I went ahead and planted them out in the garden.  Most herbs are perennials so once planted in the garden, come back every year.

You can also bring your herbs from outdoors in the fall to have herbs in the kitchen all winter.  I overwinter my tender perennials like bay, lemon grass, moringa, celery and Chipetin pepper in the garage with great success every year.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

What I planted this week end

Spring garden
Sunday, April 14, 2019

It is definitely April shower time around our area.  We are seeing lots of rainy days along with some sunny days.  The temperatures are oscillating through quite a range from the 30's to the 80's from one week to the next.  With all the rain, this makes it a great time to sow seeds and put transplants into the garden. 

During the last week, I started many seeds indoors and outdoors and set out transplants.  I added only nitrogen fertilizer (blood meal) as I set out the transplants.  I'll add nitrogen to the seeded plants when they are up and actively growing.  This is when the plant needs nitrogen.  My soil test showed I had more than enough minerals in the soil already so no need to add anything else.

Indoors, I started flower seeds-Blue Monday Sage, 3 varieties of blue morning glory vines, Giant Red Cock's Comb, Love Lies Bleeding amaranth, purple and rose cleome, Pride of Madeira, Ring of Fire Sunflowers, several different colors of large flowering zinnias, and snap dragon flowers.

Outdoors, I sowed Alyssum seeds.  I also planted marigolds and petunia transplants.  I plant a marigold border around the entire garden bed to keep deer away.  They hate strong smells.  The petunias go into pots that I will add peppers, eggplant, stevia, and tomatoes to a little later.

These supplement the perennial flowers already in the garden-hollyhocks, daylilies, lilies, torch lily, gladiolus, surprise lily, winter jasmine, sedum, roses, peonies, lilacs and fairy lilies.

Indoors, I started dill, white sage, Blue Spice basil, and Slo Bolt cilantro.

Outdoors, I sowed chervil, Cardinal Basil and transplanted cilantro and a Golden Sage.  It is pretty gold and green as well as a culinary sage.

I don't need to plant or start many herbs because most are perennials like thyme, garden chives, garlic chives, tarragon, oregano, horseradish and mint.  I did add nitrogen fertilizer to the chives to give them a spring boost.  The other herbs don't really need fertilizer.

I planted garlic in the fall and they are coming up nicely.  
Mini greenhouse without cover, outdoor citrus tree, hostas and garlic
Indoors, I started two types of Alpine strawberries-Mignonette and Regina.  I have had Mignonette in the garden for years.  The plants did not survive this winter so I am replacing them and trying a new variety that has larger fruits.

Outdoors, the conventional strawberries are in bloom after overwintering with no issue.  I brought my citrus trees out from the garage to the back patio.  The kumquat is full of fruits.  The orange tree is putting on blooms for the first time ever.  I have been growing the plant from seed for the last 7 years, but this is the first time it put on flowers.  I read that a nitrogen deficiency in the winter months can cause this so I fertilized frequently this winter.  Seems to have done the trick!  My other citrus is just a baby that I got last year so it will likely not flower or product for a couple more years.

The goji berry plant I had also overwintered.  It is full of leaves but it won't bloom for another month or two.

My columnar apple tree has many blossoms.  I need to fertilize it and do a preventive spray.
Kumquat tree
Indoors, I started all summer veggies but one.  I saw this new cauliflower hybrid that is similar to a sprouting broccoli called Fioretta.  If it is like sprouting broccoli, it's leaves will taste like cauliflower and stay sweet all summer, making it a great summer salad addition or base when lettuce is heat stressed.

The summer veggies I started are New Zealand spinach, Spaghetti squash, Casper eggplant, Red Burgundy okra, Pablano and sweet peppers from seed saved from my garden, 2 summer squashes (Cocozelle and Early Prolific Straightneck), 3 cucumber vines (Long Green Improved, White Wonder, Fancy Green Slicer) and several tomato types (Cherokee Purple, Italian Red Pear, Super Italian, Little Napoli for a pot, a chocolate cherry tomato, 10 Fingers of Naples, and seed from a large chocolate tomato I bought from Whole Foods).

February sown lettuce and transplanted kale plant
Outdoors, I planted a little row of beets (Bulls Blood and Gourmet Blend) and Icicle radishes along with snow pea seeds in a few pots.  I don't need many pea plants to have all the snow peas I need for salads and stir fry.

The lettuce seed I sowed in late February in the mini green house has come up thickly.  I moved several of those plants out into the garden beds.  The spinach and kale transplants I planted a couple of weeks ago in pots are doing well. 

The Egyptian walking onions, sorrels, sprouting broccoli, chard, corn salad, arugula and cultivated dandelions all overwintered and I am harvesting from them.
Egyptian walking onions
I don't need any hot peppers or green beans this year as my freezer is still well stocked.  I also cut back significantly on sweet pepper plants as I still have plenty in the freezer for salsa for the summer.

I may buy a few compact cabbage plants to add to the garden.  I like the 45 day ones as they mature before it gets really hot and pest pressure gets high.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

Sprouting broccoli
Saturday, April 13, 2019

We love eating a salad every day.  It is fresh, crunchy, and delicious.  You can dress it up in so many different ways.  The variety available for the greens themselves is phenomenal.  When I was growing up, it seemed the only salad green in the store was iceberg lettuce.  Now, you can get numerous varieties of lettuces, kale, fiddle leaf ferns, purslane, wheat grass, pea shoots, spinach, amaranth, chives, arugula, endive, radicchio; the list goes on.

As the variety has increased in the stores, it has ballooned in seed catalogues.  There are hundreds of different lettuces, greens, and salad herbs available out there.

Red sails lettuce
Greens all have something in common.  They are fed by nitrogen (stimulates green growth) and stay sweetest in cool temperatures with consistent moisture.  Like most vegetables, greens do best in a fertile soil, rich in organic matter.

You can accomplish this through adding compost to your garden bed or container with a balanced fertilizer and blanketed with a mulch covering.  Planting or positioning your container in a spot where it gets some sun, but good afternoon shade to keep the plant cool will prolong the sweetness of the leaves.  You can also use a shade cover to keep the plant and soil temperature down.  Greens do not need much sun in the summer since there is so much reflected light available to the plant.

You also don’t want the soil to dry completely out.  This will stress the plant and stimulate it to go to flower, or bolt as they call it as the temperatures get warmer.  Keep the soil moist.  It is that bolting time of year.....
Swiss chard
With the advent of so many gardening today, the demand for seeds has continued to rise.  You can now choose varieties bred specifically to tolerate the conditions of each season.  There are cold hardy varieties and heat resistant varieties.  You would plant the cold hardy varieties in early spring and fall.  The heat resistant varieties you would plant in late spring and successively every 3 weeks through the summer.  Look for “bolt resistance” and “heat tolerant” varieties.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces

You can also look for greens that actually thrive during the dog days of summer.  Varieties like amaranth, chard, collards, kale, Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, orach, salad burnet, sorrel, sprouting broccoli (one of our favorite summer greens), sweet potato leaves, purslane, radacchio, and cultivated dandelions.  The new leaves are the sweetest.  Herbs like chives, parsley, tarragon, and celery leaves add an unique twist on the summer salad.  Summer greens

Blood veined sorrel
Pick the youngest leaves for salads and use the more mature leaves of chard, radicchio and sorrel for cooked greens.  Picking right after a rain or first thing in the morning also gives the sweetest, plumpest leaves.

For blogs on specific greens:
Collards and kale in your garden
For year round steamed greens, grow chard!
Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav
Grow Cultivated Dandelions

To wrap it up:
  1. Plant in rich soil.
  2. Use a natural fertilizer high in nitrogen (coffee grinds work well) each time you seed or plant.
  3. Keep the soil evenly moist; don’t allow to dry out completely.  Planting in self-watering pots and applying mulch can help.
  4. Successive sowing of lettuce and spinach seeds.  
  5. Sow varieties adapted to the season.
  6. Keep the plants in a cool, shady location to extend the harvest in the summertime.
  7. Supplement the salad bowl with sprouting broccoli leaves, perennial greens, tropical greens, and herbs when it gets hot.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

2019 Edible Garden Plan

Sunday, April 7, 2019

I have my favorites that I go back to every year.  I also try new varieties each season.  There is just so many seed varieties and available plants out there!  This is my garden plan for 2019.  

We have many perennial herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, tarragon, oregano come back every year.  Rosemary made it through the winter this year.  I always buy the hardiest available like Tuscan Blue, Arp or Barbeque, hardy to Zone 6.  I used to have order from a seed company, but they are now available at big box stores as plants.  

I tried several different varieties of creeping thyme last year.  There are 4 that survived the winter.  I will separate those to put between all the stepping stones in the garden.

I always plant stevia, dill, basil, chervil and cilantro, growing from seed indoors or outdoors.  My favorite basil varieties are Vanilla for potpourri and adding to homemade cleaning products, Cardinal for its beautiful maroon flowers, and a sweet leafy type like Genovese or Lettuce Leaf for pesto.  I still have plenty of pesto left so I will skip the Genovese and Lettuce Leaf this year.  I grow chervil to add to my body oil with lavender; these are great for the skin and smell wonderful.  I'll likely plant only Slo Bolt cilantro to give it the longest growing before bolting in warm weather.

Cool Season Crops
This year, I am going to do a few cabbage plants.  I'll harvest as soon as they can be to reduce pest pressure.  I may try broccoli for fall as the spring plants are just too much of a magnet for pests.

I'll plant snow peas in all my pots. The leaves, flowers and pods are all edible and taste like peas.  I'll plant overwintering Austrian peas in the fall to have peas and shoots throughout the winter for salads.

Spinach, lettuce, chard, and kale are already planted in the garden this spring.  For the initial plantings of lettuce, I have the ones that I grew from seed in late winter.  I planted mainly heat hardy varieties to extend the salads through summer: Red Sails, Grand Rapids, Oakleaf, Romaine and a butter crunch.

I'll also plant a couple of mustards, Giant Red and Ruby Streaks, to add to salads and they are just pretty in the garden.

I haven't planted radishes and beets lately, but am going to this year.  I like the white Icicle radishes as they aren't too peppery.

Carrots have overwintered so no need to plant more until fall.

I'll also start some Alpine strawberries.  They are small but sweet and fruit for a long period of time.

Warm Season Crops
Lettuce does not thrive in summer heat.  Perpetual Chard overwintered and it stays sweet even in summer.  I have hardiest lettuce in the garden now, but I will also plant Spiros F1 Spinach, Tyfon, Double Purple Orach, and Radish Singara Rat's Tail for summer salads.  The dwarf Moringa tree seems to have overwintered successfully in the garage so it will be a nice, high protein add to salads.

Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, green beans, and cucumbers are typically standbys.  I had a bumper crop of green beans last year so I will not be planting any this year.  I also have enough JalapeƱo and cayenne peppers in the freezer for another season.
*This year, the peppers will be Ancho or Poblano for chili sauces and sweet peppers from last year's seed.  
*Squash will be Early Prolific Straightneck, Cocozelle Zucchini, and Spaghetti Squash.
*For the eggplant, I'm going to grow a white eggplant like White Star and AO Daimaru which stayed sweet all summer.
*Tomatoes are the hardest for me.  I just want to plant so many different kinds and I don't need so many.   
Choosing which tomatoes to grow  I'll for sure do Cherokee Purple, Italian Red Pear paste, Amish Paste and a smaller chocolate tomato.  
*Cucumbers will be a white and a green variety.

I add flowers to the garden every year, interplanted with the edibles.  The flowers I am planning to add this year-marigolds, Cocks Comb, Jasmine vine, Hummingbird Vine, Heavenly Blue Morning Glory, Love Lies Bleeding, zinnias, alyssum, with petunias and nasturtiums for the pots.  Flowers are great for repelling bad bugs (marigolds) and attracting beneficial bugs like bees.  Flowers that are edible

Fairy lilies, daylilies, peonies, irises, gladiolus, hollyhocks, and lilies all come back each year.

There are a few more varieties I will likely add to the list.  I'll get all my seeds out and look through them one last time to finalize the garden plan.  One thing I have to do is to make a max that I will plant of each type.  The hardest thing for me to do is not over-plant!  There are just so many interesting kinds of veggies out there, it is tough to make a plan and stick with it!

For different garden ideas, here are some to choose from:  
Heirloom Sicilian kitchen garden
Small space French kitchen garden
Start a kitchen herb garden!  
Children's edible garden
Grow your own smoothie and juice garden
Decorative container gardening for edibles

Easy kitchen garden

Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

I try to keep a diary during the garden season to capture what has worked well in my garden and what hasn't as well as any gaps in harvest times.  There are typically early, mid and late varieties of the same type of veggie or fruit.

I captured what I wanted to keep and try in my 2019 edible garden in the fall so I wouldn't forget.  Reflecting back on 2018, planning for 2019

Saturday, April 6, 2019

What's happening in the early April edible garden

Early April garden, mulched and ready to plant!
Saturday, April 6, 2019

The time has arrived for sowing seeds, pulling weeds, and putting transplants in the garden and pots! I plant a combination of herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers every year.  The flowers attract pollinators that help the fruiting plants like tomatoes and peppers to produce more as well as just looking good.

Status of our garden
I took in my soil sample in to the local extension office for analysis.  I was waiting for the results before I did any fertilizing of the garden beds.  Ends up this was a good choice.  I am good on everything.  I'll just add nitrogen to each planting hole as plants use this nutrient quickly in the growing phase.  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

I did pull weeds and we mulched the garden bed so it is ready to be planted.  We have Egyptian walking onions, chard, sorrel, arugula, carrots, celery, lettuce, dandelions and plantain that overwintered and are going strong right now.  I use the bottoms of the onions in cooking and the tops like chives.  The greens I use in salads and also as wilted greens.

Looks like so far I have a rosemary that survived the winter in the garden.  Thyme, oregano, tarragon, parsley, garden chives, and garlic chives all are green and ready to use.  I'll need to replant my sage and cilantro.  I planted several varieties of creeping thyme last year so that we would have different colors of flowers.  There were 4 different kinds that survived the winter.  I'll divide those this spring to put between the stepping stones.  They are edible, pretty and smell good.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

The bay, kumquat, goji berry, lemon balm, pepper plant, lemon grass, orange and grapefruit tree I overwintered in the garage are adding leaves.  The kumquat is full of ripe fruits and the pepper plant has a couple of peppers on it.  I moved them all outdoors this week as the extended forecast has the night time lows staying at least in the 40's.  

The lettuce seed I sowed in the mini greenhouses last month are sprouted.  I'll start thinning by transplanting the larger ones into the garden.  I bought some kale and spinach plants that I planted in pots last week.  They are looking quite happy.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

I bought some petunias, marigolds, and leek transplants.  I'll get those into the garden and pots this week end.

We dug up most of the horseradish and shared with other gardeners.  These plants have an extensive rhizome like root system so there will be more that sprout from the pieces of roots left behind.  I also dug many of the onions that were growing outside the garden bed and gave them to other gardeners.  This is a great perennial veggie that just keeps giving year round.  Egyptian walking onions

April and May are fun to watch to see what volunteers will come back from last year's seed.  I will likely have many zinnias, borage, tomatoes, horseradish, and lettuce plants pop up yet this spring as the soil warms.  Try self-seeding veggies and flowers

I'll take a look in the freezer to see what we are running short on and look at the summary I did at the end of last season to finalize the garden plan for this season.  Reflecting back on 2018, planning for 2019

I think I'll also try to go to the farmers market more this year to see if there are other fruits or veggies that do well in this area to add to the garden.  We have one that goes year round and another couple that are close by that starts up in early June.  You can find a farmers market near you through this web site.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What to plant in the April edible garden

Early spring garden
Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April is a beautiful time of year with the leaves coming on, the grass turning green, the first of the flowers and lots of plants poking their heads out of the ground.  There are many veggie and fruit seeds and transplants that can be put in the edible garden.  It is still too chilly for most of the summer lovers.  Big box stores, hardware stores, local nurseries, flea markets and farmers markets all have plants.  This makes it easy to get your garden going in the spring.  You can find many heirloom fruits and veggies transplants and seeds nowadays.  For the unusual plants, buying on-line from seed companies is the way to go.

I would prepare the beds first with fertilizer and mulch before starting seeds or planting.  You can do a soil test yourself or send off for one if you want to create a fertilizer specific to your needs.  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

If you are starting a new bed, here are options:  Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really

Here is a list of plants and seeds you can put in the April garden: 
April-transplants or seeds
Bee balm (monarda)
Brussels sprouts
Fruit bushes
Lemon balm
Summer squash (like zucchini)

April-start from seeds directly in the garden
Beans (snap-bush & pole)

For tips on starting your seeds in the garden:  Outdoor seed starting tips  I also like to put a pot on our covered deck and start seeds there.  Once they are to a good size, I transplant them into their permanent pot of into the garden bed.  Vegetables you can grow in pots

Sunday, March 31, 2019

April 2019 Edible Garden Planner

Late April lettuce bed
Sunday, March 31, 2019

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!

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

I am giving the broccoli family a rest this year since I had pests on these last year.  Without their favorite food to feast on, they should move on for next year's garden.  If the summer looks good, I may plant them for fall harvests because they love the cool temps of fall, too.

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 have already planted lettuce, spinach, and kale.  I'll likely be planting cabbage, leeks, cilantro, chervil, rat's tail, beets, radishes, bulb onions and potatoes this month.  Overwintered celery, parsley, carrots, chives, onions, cultivated dandelion, sorrel, tarragon, sage, thyme, arugula 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 space as little as 6' x 6' Grow a Sicilian/Italian kitchen garden in as little as 6' x 6'

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.
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 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 them in a sheltered spot to get a jump on spring.  Putting your pots on the south side of the house will provide the maximum warmth.  I love planting greens in large self watering pots that I 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.