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 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.