Sunday, April 26, 2015

What's happening in the late April garden

Spring in the park

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It was unusually cold through the end of February and March this year in our Zone 6/7 garden.  Things are not popping out of the ground like they were last year.

So, what is popping up?  Overwintered garlic, Elephant garlic, French sorrel, blood veined sorrel, kale, sprouting broccoli, dandelions, common chives, garlic chives, strawberries, onions, wild leeks, sage, mint, thyme, newly planted Oregon sugar pod peas and overwintered Austrian pea shoots.

We added compost, fertilized, and mulched the garden beds and pots at the end of March.  It is not too late to prepare your beds and plant cool season veggies right now.  You can plant a summer garden right through June. 

Lowes, Home Depot, and Ace all have bedding veggies in stock.  Of course, I couldn’t resist!  I bought broccoli, rosemary, oregano, lavendar, snapdragons, alyssum, petunias, chard, buttercrunch and romaine lettuces. I am in love with the red and burgundy varieties! I grew from seed and planted Tuscan kale, sugar snap peas, mesculun greens, several heading broccoli, sprouting broccoli, 9 Star perennial broccoli, Golden Streaks mustard, pole beans, oregano, parsley.   Outdoors I sowed seeds of various lettuces, spinach, carrots, beets, culantro, cilantro, and Fordhook Swiss chard.   

For outdoor sowing, I have a few elongated pots that I start my seeds in. This was I can get them at the perfect depth.  I put labels in each so I don’t forget.  When they are up and have a few leaves, I will transplant into larger pots or the garden.  I plant my veggies in my mulched garden beds.  Most seedlings can’t press through the mulch.  The other thing I like about having sprouting pots is that I am not wondering if it is a weed or something I planted!
Pot for seed starting

I am still starting summer loving veggies, fruits and flowers indoors.  The Aerogarden, a hydroponic system, is great for this.  Just planting in re-used 6 packs on a heated mat does fabulous as well.  I am using both at the moment.

I plant a few annual herbs and any tender perennial herbs that didn’t survive the winter each year.  Annual herbs-cilantro, culantro (heat tolerant herb that tastes like cilantro), basil, parsley, dill and tender perennials-rosemary and bay are mainstays.

The cilantro does not last long; as soon as it warms up, it bolts.  You have to succession plant these to keep them in the garden.  Place them in a cool spot that gets some morning sun, but is in the shade the rest of the day.  Culantro has the taste of cilantro, but does not bolt.  Keep it in the shady part of the garden for the fresh taste all summer long.  Parsley and dill typically re-seed themselves so I wait until May before I replant these annuals.  

Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials like thyme, oregano, tarragon, sage, lavender.  Bay can survive in Zone 6 if the winter is mild.  There are varieties of rosemary rated to Zone 5, but I have never had mine come back for a second year.  Basil is very cold tender and must be replanted each spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Tarragon to left, garlic chives in center and common chives on right, getting ready to flower

Chard is a decorative and hardy green that comes in such beautiful colors-orange, red, yellow, burgundy, fuchsia and white stemmed varieties.  I planted them all along the back of the garden bed one of each color from the little flat of seedlings.  

Small chard leaves are great in salads.  Large leaves are great steamed.  The stalks of the large leaves can be used like celery, but very pretty celery!  Chard is a tender perennial.  The white stemmed Fordhook Swiss Chard is the most cold hardy. I think a pop of white makes the dramatic colors even more vibrant.   I had a red chard come back for years.  Chard produces a ton of seeds.  Save them from your favorite plants and reseed next spring.  Seed saving produces plants that are uniquely adapted to your garden conditions.

I like broccoli raab or sprouting broccoli because you get small broccoli heads throughout the entire growing season versus one large head at once.  The leaves are also edible and great to add to salads.  They grow to be large plants.  Two plants gave us all the broccoli and broccoli leaves we needed for our salads.  If planting in a container, thin to one plant in a large pot.  My overwintered purple sprouting broccoli already has florets!  I started 2 new plants from seeds I saved from a couple of summers ago.  They are filling out nicely.
Purple sprouting broccoli with florets

Now is also the time to plant spring garlic.  Fall is the best time, but you can get scapes and small cloves by planting in spring.  My elephant garlic is going strong.  When you dig the garlic in the fall, there are tiny cloves that usually get left behind.  These will come back in the spring.  The tiny cloves may take 2 seasons to get up to full size cloves.  I have garlic resprouting from these tiny bulbets left in the ground after last year’s harvest.

The lettuce I planted at the beginning of March has leaves large enough to harvest.  The sprouting broccoli, dandelions, sorrel, pea shoots are all great adds to spring salads.

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