Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cucumber info and tips for growing

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cucumbers are a tropical plant and love heat.  They should be started indoors 4 weeks prior to the last frost (mid March in our Zone 6) and transplanted outside after all danger of frost has passed.

Cucumbers have been around for thousands of years and originally were cultivated in India.  The cucumber arrived in Europe at least 2000 years ago.  The Romans loved them.  They were so well thought of that Christopher Columbus brought the cucumber with him to Haiti in the 1400‘s and was likely aboard the first ships in Virginia in the 1600’s.

Cucumbers are a good source of potassium, antioxidants like beta carotene, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K.  It also has a diuretic properties.

Cucumbers should be planted in full sun, rich soil, and given consistent moisture.  Cucumbers can be grown in pots, on the ground or on a trellis.  If growing in soil, plant 4 seeds in hills 3-4‘ apart and thin to the strongest two.  I plant one to a pot or trellis.   They seem to do equally well in a pot or in the ground.

The trick with cucumbers is to harvest often.  Pick the fruits after the “fuzz” has smoothed out and before they turn yellow.  The sooner you pick the cucumber, the less and smaller seeds it will have.  Frequent harvesting encourages the vine to grow more fruits.  The vine can only support so many fruits at a time.  It will wait until you harvest one before allowing a flower to go to fruit.

If growing in pots, look for patio, dwarf, bush, or compact in the description.  Some small varieties include Lemon, Suyo, Salad Bush, Fanfare, Sweet Success.  One vine was all we needed to have enough cucumbers to make pickles for the year for my husband and for salads for me.

Fertilize weekly and keep evenly moist.  Do not let soil completely dry out.  This will result in bitter or hollow fruits.  Each plant produces both male and female flowers.  The first flowers will likely be males.  Don’t be surprised or worried when the first flowers fall off without fruiting.  When the female flowers appear, you will get baby fruits.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What we are harvesting from our Mid May garden

Lettuce, cultivated dandelions, chives, and kale

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mid May is a wonderful time in the garden.  Greens are sweet and juicy.  Herbs are growing robustly.  By this time of year, we no longer need to purchase produce from the grocery store and can get fresh herbs to add to ordinary dishes that make them taste wonderful.
Potted lettuce

The greens we are eating-French sorrel, chard, spinach, dandelion greens, salad burnet, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, sweet clover, green onions, kale, broccoli leaves.
Main veggie and herb garden bed

Herbs to add to dishes and salads-garlic chives, common chives, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, savory, horseradish, leeks, Egyptian onions, tarragon, sage, savory. 
Volunteer dill

The iris are at their peak.  The peonies and late blooming tulips are still in flowering.  The spiderwurts and roses are just beginning to bud.  The potted petunias are filling out.  The lawn is a lush, thick green carpet.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden

French sorrel

Saturday, May 10, 2014

If you are someone that doesn’t want to have to plant every year to have home grown fruits and vegetables, grow perennials!  Believe it or not, perennial vegetables do exist.

There is a long list of perennial vegetables, particularly greens. Many are hard to find the seed for or a starter plant.  There are several that are easy to find, though! Spring or fall is a great time to plant any perennial.  Perennials are the first up in the spring.

The perennial vegetables we currently grow:
**French sorrel (good for soups, steamed or a salad green)
**Blood-veined sorrel (striking salad green)
**Chard (perennial if grown in a sheltered area)
**Sorrel-soups, steamed or salad green (Garden, French, Debelleville)
**Corn salad (salad green)
**Radicchio (good steamed, roasted or a salad green)
**Good King Henry (spinach relative, use as a salad green)
**Salad burnet (taste somewhat like a Granny Smith apple, use fresh in salads)
**Egyptian walking onion (use fresh for cooking or salads)
**Potato onions (stores well)
**Perennial kale, Pentland Brig's (good steamed or as salad green)
**Nine Star perennial broccoli (looks like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower)
**Chives (salads or flavoring cream cheese, butter, sour cream, dips)
**Arugula (peppery flavor, great for salads)
**Daylily (flower buds can be eaten like green beans, flowers in salads)
**ECOS purple potato
**Cultivated dandelions-great for salads (Italian, Thick leaved improved, Nouvelle, Vollherzigen)
**Rugels Plaintain

Other popular perennial vegetables you may want to add are sea kale, Daubenton's perennial kale, rhubarb, lovage, groundnut, asparagus, artichokes, collards, or Jerusalem artichokes.

Potted orange, fig and kumquat

Most fruits are also perennials:
**Apple, pear, cherry, peach, pawpaw, mulberry and fig trees
**Blueberry bushes
**Grape, goji berry, passionflower, kiwi, raspberry and blackberry vines

Then there are the herbs.  Most herbs are perennials.  Here are ones we are growing.
**ARP and Barbeque rosemary
**Lemon balm
**Winter savory

Eggplant, tomatoes, okra, and peppers are also perennials, but only in tropical areas.  You can bring them indoors each winter and put them back out in the spring after all danger of a hard frost is past.  You will get fruits a month earlier than starting with new plants.  We brought in a potted cayenne pepper plant a couple of winters ago.  It flowered and fruited up until January indoors and restarted flowering in May once outdoors.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Foraging for wild edibles

Redbud tree

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My friend Edi and I went to Land Between the Lakes, a state park between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in western Kentucky, on a Wild Edible Hike hosted by state park conservationists a couple of weeks ago.  I had always wanted to learn more about wild edibles.  It was very informative and a beautiful day for a hike to boot.

If you are new to foraging, make sure you take an experienced guide with you as many plants can look alike and some plants are poisonous.

Here is a run down of the edibles that were available in mid April in the park:
Redbud blossoms and pods.  Redbud trees are part of the legume family which includes peas and beans.  The blossoms tasted somewhat like pea sprouts.
Redbud blooms

Yarrow looks like a fern and is used as a tea.

Starry chickweed is edible and has a mild flavor.  This was a green that settlers looked forward to every spring to have something fresh and green to eat.
Spring beauty

Spring beauties or fairy spuds are tiny potato like tubers with tiny white flowers.
Tiny potato

Blue violets have edible leaves and flowers with a slightly minty taste.
Blue violet

Paw paw fruit trees are the largest native fruit tree in the US.  They taste like a creamy yellow banana.  They are pollinated by flies.  Settlers would hang rotten meat on them to attract the flies to have more fruit set.  This time of year they have only the flower with no leaves yet.
Paw Paw trees
Paw Paw flowers
Christmas fern unfurling

Next we saw a Christmas fern unfurling.  They are called fiddleheads at this stage.  You can actually buy fiddlehead ferns in some grocery stores.  When fried, they are said to taste like asparagus.

The May Apple is poisonous until fully ripe.  Box turtles love it and know just when they are edible.  The conservationist shared that she would wait until she thought they were ripe and give it one extra day to be sure, come back and all the fruit had already been eaten.  They are yellow and soft when ripe.  Just the fully ripened fruit is edible.
May Apple

Anemones are not edible.  They have a pretty little flower though.
Unedible anemones

Wild onion, leeks and garlic are all edible.  You can tell what they are by taking off a tip and smelling the greenery; it will have that distinct allium odor.  Garlic is hollow and round stemmed while onions and leeks have solid stems.
Wild onion

Wild mustard
Wild mustard is identified by its four flowers forming a cross.  This is where they get their name as a cruciferous vegetable.
Wild mustard flowering

Wild dandelion
Dandelions are edible from root to flower.  The leaves are great in salads.  When temps rise, they can be blanched to make them sweeter.  Flowers can be used in salads as well or fried.  The root can be dried and used as a coffee substitute.  Dandelions have over 100% of vitamin A and over 500% of vitamin K.  The dandelion is actually a European import.  They were brought over by early settlers.  At one time they were thought to have medicinal properties.  It is likely that it was just getting nutritious greens after a long winter that was the reason for improved health.  You can buy cultivated dandelions from many seed companies that were bred for their large leaves and sweet taste.  I have had Italian dandelion for a few years and it tastes great.  I bought several more varieties this spring, Thick Leaved Improved, Nouvelle, Debelleville, Rugels and Vollherzigen.

Cultivated Italian dandelion, note the large leaves