Sunday, March 27, 2016

Outdoor seed sowing seed starting times

Garden bed ready for outdoor sowing

Sunday, March 27, 2016

If indoor seed starting is not your thing, but you still want to have the variety and cost effectiveness of seeds, you can direct sow your seeds directly into the garden.  If you are planting in mulch, be sure to open a hole in the mulch, plant the seed to the depth on the seed packet and cover with potting soil.  Mulch can form a hard crust that only the strongest seedling (like beans and squash) can break through.

I would prepare the beds first with fertilizer and mulch before starting seeds.  You can do a soil test yourself or send off for one if you want to create a fertilizer specific to your needs.   See this post for details The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals  If this is over the top for you, just use a good organic fertilizer at the recommended rate, an inch of compost, and cover with mulch.  You want to make sure your fertilizer is covered or you will lose a good portion of the nitrogen to the atmosphere.  I love gardening in mulch for many reasons that you can read about here:  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

Here is the by month seed sowing calendar for our Zone 6 garden.  There are so many early and late varieties available that you should consult the seed packet on the best outdoor sowing times (always listed as the weeks before your last frost date) as you may be able to sow the seeds even sooner outdoors than has been typical in the past.

February (as soon as soil can be worked)
Asparagus
Fruit trees and bushes
Garlic
Grapes
Peas
Shallots

March
Arugula
Asparagus
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Chamomile
Chives
Collards
Cress
Fava beans
Fruit bushes
Kale
Kohlrabi
Leek
Lettuce (sow every 2 weeks if you are a salad lover for continuous salads)
Mache (corn salad)
Mustard
Onion
Parsnips
Peas
Potatoes
Rhubarb
Spinach (sow every 2 weeks through early May)
Turnips

April
Artichoke
Beans (snap-bush & pole)
Bee balm (monarda)
Borage
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Carrots
Catnip
Cauliflower
Celeriac
Celery
Chard
Cilantro
Corn
Cucumber
Dill
Endive
Fennel
Fruit bushes
Horseradish
Lavender
Lemon balm
Lettuce
Lovage
Mizuna
Mustard
Onions
Parsley
Potatoes
Radicchio
Radishes
Spinach
Summer squash (like zucchini)
Tarragon
Thyme
Valerian

May
Basil
Bay
Beans (dry & lima)
Edamame
Eggplant
Lemon verbena
Marjoram
Melons (cantaloupe, watermelons)
Mint
Okra
Onions
Oregano
Peppers
Potatoes
Rosemary
Sage
Malabar & New Zealand spinach
Stevia
Sweet potato
Winter squash (like pumpkins and butternut squash)
Tomatoes


You can plant later than is shown above; just not earlier for risk of it being too cold for the seed sprout and the seed may rot.  The warm season crops, ones planted in May, don't like getting their feet cold so a little later can actually help them to grow faster.  For other tips on warming the soil and keeping warm season crops protected for early planting, see Extend the season with protection for plants

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What we planted this March week end

Baby spinach in an Earthbox in front, perennial sorrel in back

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It is officially the spring!  We are having a little bit of a cold snap this week end, but it is forecasted to warm back up during the week.  Now is a good time to plant cold weather loving crops and seeds and harvest perennial greens for salads. 

In our salad today, I added fresh from the garden the nutritious spring greens of kale, salad burnet (has a Granny Smith apple taste), chickweed, corn salad (tastes similar to arugula), and the tops of Egyptian walking onions used as chives.  Could have also used the perennial cultivated dandelion greens, mustard greens, French sorrel, blood veined sorrel, garden chives, herbs, parsley, and overwintered carrots fresh from the garden.

This is what we planted in the last couple of weeks:
Red Onion starts-plant so tops are even with the ground
Asian snow peas-1/2” deep in pots
Lettuce seeds in pots (a variety of seeds saved from last year’s garden)
Buttercunch bibb lettuce plants
Red Leaf lettuce plants (looks similar to Red Sails)
Paris Island Cos romaine lettuce plants
Red Romaine lettuce plants
Coastal Star romaine lettuce plants
Iceberg lettuce plants
Cilantro plants
Bonnie spinach plants

Depending on the temperatures, you can to start harvesting from the lettuce plants a week or two.  I harvest the leaves on the outside of the plant.  The inside will continue to produce more leaves.  You can harvest from the same plant for months this way!

All leafy greens can be companion planted with cabbage, beets, carrots, chives, garlic, and onions.  Do not plant near broccoli.  Since they are shallow rooted, they grow well with root crops.  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce

Leafy greens like nitrogen.  Root crops like potassium.  You can get nitrogen from compost, alfalfa, soybean meal or fish emulsion.  Potassium can be gotten from green sand via its potash content.  Fish emulsion actually gives not only nitrogen, but also potassium and phosphorous, making it a great all around fertilizer.


I add a plant starter with mycorrhizae on the roots of each plant and a handful of worm castings.  After planting, I water in the pots with fish emulsion.  Germination of seeds should take anywhere from 4-15 days.  I am sure I will be out there looking for little green shoots daily.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Quick tip-Time for lawn pre-emergent

Forsythia bushes in bloom on right


Saturday, March 19, 2016

When the forsythia blooms, it is time to use corn gluten on your lawn to keep weed seeds from sprouting.

Corn gluten is the all natural way to control weeds, no chemicals required.  Corn gluten is also a fertilizer and will green up your lawn.  Be sure to apply corn gluten every year to keep your weeds in check.  

One watch out, corn gluten will keep all seeds from sprouting, so do not use on any area where you want to plant seeds, like your garden beds.  On the other hand, if you have self seeders you want to control, corn gluten is perfect.

For more on all natural, chemical free lawn care  Organic, all natural lawn

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Collards and kale in your garden


Potted kale, petunias and Egyptian walking onions

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Kale is not only beautiful, it is good for you!  Kale is chock full of antioxidants, beta carotene, lutein, vitamins C and K, and calcium.  It also contains compounds that are potent against cancer, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol.  Nutritional info
Kale was the first to be domesticated from the ancient cabbage family of plants.  The Celts were the first to cultivate these greens, causing the birth of kale, broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and kohlrabi.  

Collards are a uniquely American vegetable that has always been associated with the South and appeared in the late 1700’s.  Thomas Jefferson’s favorite kale was a variety similar to a Siberian kale.  He also grew a variety similar to today's Tuscan kale, also known as dinosaur or black kale; a very striking plant to have in the garden with its long, dark blue-green and bumpy leaves.

Most kale is a biennial, but there are still perennial varieties if you can find the seed.  Perennial varieties include tree collards, walking stick kale, western front kale, Dorbenton kale, and sea kale.  

Dwarf blue curled kale
If you want to save seed from the biennial, you have to allow the kale to go through one winter, allow to flower and dry on the plant.  Kales cross easily with other kales and collards so if you want true to type, grow only that kind in your garden.  Flowering kale have pretty yellow flowers and the bees love them!

There are many colors and textures of kales.  There are the “dinosaur” kales which have a blistered, black appearance, red kales, green kales, dwarf kales, green, red kales, and ornamental kales which are edible.  Some are more winter hardy than others.  Check seed packets for descriptors like "winter hardy" and "cold tolerant".  Those grown in the fall are sweetest if picked after a frost.  Fall garden planning and planting

Kale is generally a fall crop but can be cultivated in the spring.  They can be started indoors or direct seeded in May (soil temp of 55-75 degrees F).  They prefer rich soil and should be kept moist until sprouted.  Sow seeds 1/4” deep and 4-6” apart, thin to 12”.  If planting rows, allow at least 18”.  I have also had great success raising them in a pot. 

Several varieties of kale come available as bedding plants in March.  There are also a couple varieties of collards.  Both can be planted into beds and pots in our Zone 6 garden now.

For fall, plant around Independence Day (July 4th).The kales I planted last fall are still alive.  I had several different kinds planted in pots.  Kale is very cold hardy. 

You can harvest the outer leaves when they are 8-10” long for cooking or juicing.  You can also harvest the leaves when smaller for salads.  Store at 32 degrees and high humidity in the frig for the longest life.

One of the fun ways to prepare kale is to salt and dry in a dehydrator or low temp in the oven.  They can be eaten as you do chips, but are much healthier.  You can also eat the new leaves in salads or sauté or steam the larger leaves.

For any that I don't eat fresh, I blanche and freeze to add to a steamed veggie side dish or to soups.  You do need to blanche kale and other greens to maintain the tasted.  Freezing the extras for winter

Saturday, March 12, 2016

All about turnips

Purple top turnips

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Turnips are rich in folic acid, iron, vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium.  Antioxidants like those in turnips protect against heart disease and cancer.    Nutritional info

The greens themselves are also edible and are an excellent addition to spring and fall salads.  We also like our turnips steamed or grilled.  This brings out the starches of the root, greatly reducing any bitterness.

Turnips are the most ancient of roots, haling from the Far East (Afghanistan/Mediterranean basin area).  They were first domesticated in 15th century BC in India.  Turnips were used as livestock feed, growing to 30-40 pounds in the 1500’s in Canada.  By the 1700‘s, turnips were the most important root crop for both people and cattle.  The purple top turnips we are familiar with today also arose in the 1700’s.

Turnips are biennials that have to overwinter to flower and produce seeds.  The seed stalks are quite tall, reaching 3 feet in height.  If you want to allow your turnips to flower and save seed, staking is needed.

Turnips can be sown in spring or fall.  The sweetest and largest roots will be from fall sown.  Sow when the daffodils are in full bloom in spring and when goldenrod blooms in fall.

Turnips are easy to grow and prefer sandy, loose soil.  The flavor is best when grown in poor soil.  Maintain evenly moist soil; dry soil will produce woody cores.  Plant 1/2” deep and thin to 4” apart.  Space 18” from next row of crops.

Harvest leaves when they are 4-6” high.  Only pick a third of the leaves if you are planning on also eating the root.  Roots should be pulled when 3” in diameter; they are the sweetest after a frost.  When pulled, you can also add the greens to your salad.

For any extras that I don't eat fresh from the garden, I like to blanch and freeze the rest.  I add turnips to a mix of other frozen garden veggies for steamed veggies.  A great way to preserve your garden bounty and get a super nutritious side dish.  For more on blanching, Freezing the extras for winter

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Add a super nutritious spring green to your garden-spinach


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Spinach is touted as one of the super foods and there are good reasons why.  Spinach is rich in antioxidants, folic acid, betaine, protein, omega-3, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, minerals manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, phosphorous, zinc, and selenium.  Spinach nutritional facts

Spinach can be eaten raw, steamed, or sautéed.  A French favorite is creamed spinach.  Spinach contains oxalic acid which is eliminated when cooked.  Alternating between fresh and cooked is optimal.

It has been reported that spinach helps prevent osteoporosis, anemia, heart disease and cancers of the colon and prostate.Natural News

Spinach was originally an Asian green and was first cultivated in Persia (modern day Iran) in the 3rd century and brought back to Europe via Spain by the Crusaders in the 11th century.

It was a favorite of Catherine de Medici from Florence, Italy.  She insisted every dish be served on a bed of lettuce.  Hence the term, “a’ la Florentine” for this style.

The smooth seeded spinach we grow today was known in the 1600’s.  Bot the smooth and prickly seeded varieties were grown in the American colonies by the 1700’s.  The prickly seeded varieties are more prone to early bolting than the smooth seeded varieties.

Spinach loves well composted, moist soil and cool weather (below 70 degrees F).  Spinach will often over winter even in the northern states.  In southern states it is typically fall sown for spring harvests.

Seeds should be sown 1/2” deep, 3-6” apart.  Spinach is also happy to grow in pots.  Growing in pots also allow you to move the pot to a cooler area as temperatures rise, extending the harvest.

For spring harvests, plant in full sun to light shade in early spring (4-6 weeks before the last frost).  Seeds germinate in soil temperatures of 45-70 degrees F.  Spinach also transplants easily so can be started indoors.  Frost date calendar

Plant every 2 weeks or plant a variety with different maturity times (days to harvest) to have spinach into summer.    Fertilize when the seedlings emerge.  Spinach is ready to harvest 35-50 days.  Spinach enjoys even moisture.

If you harvest the outer leaves, the inner leaves will continue to grow, allowing you multiple harvests from each plant.

If you let them go to seed, allow the seed to dry on the plant before saving.  Refrigerate in air tight containers.  I use plastic freezer bags to save space in the frig.

Plant more heat resistant varieties later in the season like America, Teton, Bloomsdale Longstanding, Space Olympia, or Tyee.

For summer after spinach has bolted, you can plant New Zealand Spinach or Red Malabar Spinach for spinach taste from plants that can take the heat.