Sunday, March 26, 2017

What's happening in the late March garden

Newly planted lettuce, spinach, leeks and cilantro

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wow.  What a crazy, warm late winter!  In the 70’s in mid/late March in the Midwest.  Everything is blooming and growing weeks ahead of normal.  The forsythia, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and tulips are all in bloom at the same time. 

Right now, the French sorrel is lush and ready to harvest, chives and garlic are up, onions are already bigger than green onion size, cress is a good size, cultivated dandelion greens, corn salad, kale, peas, arugula and spinach have leaves large enough to cut.  Chickweed and plantain is high in nutrition and a nice add to salads; they are going strong now.  Rosebud flowers are in bloom and tasty in salads as well as pretty.  They have a taste similar to peas.

Other herbs that are greening out-thyme, sage, oregano, mint, tarragon, parsley, lavender.

Rosebud in bloom

I usually have volunteer lettuce plants that emerge in the spring.  Since we have laid such a thick layer of compost on the garden this year, it is likely that many volunteer plants like lettuce won't be able to come up through this thickness. 

I purchased cilantro, spinach, rosemary, leeks, and many varieties of lettuce plants.  I planted all except the rosemary today.

Pepper, tomato and basil plants are also available now.  It is still a little early for tomatoes and basil.  I do have a couple of pepper plants I overwintered in the garage that my hubby brought back outside this week end.  Pepper plants tend to be hardier than tomato plants.

If you do buy tomato and basil, just be prepared to cover them or keep them in pots to bring indoors if we get another cold snap.  It is probably best to keep them in pots as the soil is still a little chilly for their liking.

One more thing, don't forget to rotate the location of your crops in the garden from last year's.  This reduces pests and disease.  By rotating you also aren't taking the same nutrients from the soil that each class of plant prefers for strong growth.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The First Victory Gardens

March 25, 2017

During the World Wars, the US government encouraged back yard and community gardens so farmers could directly support the war.  I recently bought a Farmers's Bulletin Form 1044 from the United States Department of Agriculture called "The City Home Garden" published in 1919.

I find it interesting to see what was grown in gardens 100 years or more ago.  The veggies types are very similar to what we find in gardens today.  A few of the varieties are common; many I have never heard of.  

Here are the veggies and varieties recommended in this pamphlet:
Bean (Lima and snap)-Stringless Green-Pod, Currie's Rustproof Wax, Refugee Wax, Kentucky Wonder, colored dry beans
Beets-Crosby's Egyptian, Blood Turnip
Brussels Sprouts
Early Cabbage-Jersey Wakefield, Charleston Wakefield
Late Cabbage-Late Flat Dutch, Danish Baldhead, Copenhagen
Cantaloupes or Muskmelons-Rocky Ford, Tiptop, Hoodoo, Ohio Sugar
Carrot-Oxheart, Danvers Half-Long
Celery-White Plume, Golden Self-Blanching, Boston Market
Cucumbers-White Spine
Lettuce-Grand Rapids, Big Boston, Iceberg, California Cream Butter
Okra-White Velvet, Dwarf Green Prolific, Perkins Mammoth, Long-Podded, Lady Finger
Onion-from seed Yellow Globe, Yellow Danvers, Red Wethersfield, Silverskin, Crystal Wax, Red Bermuda
Parsnip-Hollow Crown, Guernsey
Peas/English Peas (smooth and wrinkled)-Extra Early Alaska, Gradus, Thomas Laxton, Champion of England, Telephone
Peppers (sweet or mango)-Ruby King, Chinese Giant, Pimento
Potatoes (Irish and sweet)
Radish-Scarlet Globe White-Tipped, French Breakfast, Icicle, Philadelphia White Box, Early Yellow Turnip
Salsify-Sandwich Island
Squashes-Summer (Crookneck, Pattypan) and Winter (Hubbard, Boston Marrow)
Sweet Corn-Golden Bantam, Country Gentleman, Stowell's Evergreen, Mammoth Evergreen, Ohio Sugar
Sweet Potato-Porto Rico, Nancy Hall, Southern Queen, Big-Stem Jersey
Tomato-Bonnie Best, Early Jewel, Acme, Globe, Detroit, Improved Stone, Trophy
Turnip-Purple-Top Strap-Leaved
Watermelons-Kleckley Sweets, Florida Favorite, Tom Watson

Putting up for the winter was also encouraged.  There were many pamphlets also written to share with citizens on how to can and other preservation methods.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Preparing the garden bed for planting

Garden prepped with horse manure compost
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Time to get the garden beds ready for planting!  We are using horse manure compost with sea minerals topped with mulch.  This should give the garden an excellent start.
The first thing you should do for any bed is to have a soil test done to see what amendments your soil needs.  You can get a do it yourself kit or take some soil into your local extension office.  Mine has shown a lack of nitrogen and an excess of calcium in specific beds.  If you just want to get going on your garden, add a balanced organic fertilizer like Espoma's Garden-Tone.  You can also make your own fertilizer with just a few ingredients.
Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive

My hubby added the horse manure compost this week and we are adding the sea minerals and then topping with mulch next week end, giving the compost time to settle.  Adding minerals to the soil not only helps the plants grow, but also provide you with minerals when you eat the mineral rich veggies.  A win-win. 

Aerogarden after one week
Most of the seeds are up in the Aerogarden, just planted a week ago.  It doesn't take long!  They will soon be ready to transplant into the garden and pots.  I keep my seeds in ziplock bags in the fridge crisper so they last for years.  For any seeds that don't sprout, I will take the seed packet out and sow them all in a pot; a few might come up.  Be sure when you sow seeds indoors or outdoors that you capture what is planted where.  It is easy to forget what is already sown!

We also planted the red Terra Rosa and purple Purple Majesty potatoes in the potato boxes today.  We let them sprout on a plate that we kept in the sun.  This helps to accelerate the harvest by 2 weeks.  It is just good to do so you can see what eyes will sprout.  When you plant your seed potatoes, you want to plant them so the eye is toward the sky.  They should break through the soil with green shoots in 2 weeks.
Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio

If you are thinking of putting in a garden bed, here is a rather each way to do it.  If you don't have much space, try pots.  You can grow an amazing amount and an amazing variety just in pots!
Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really
Decorative container gardening for edibles

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Colonial Vegetable Garden

Colonial Williamsburg, VA,  Re-inactment Garden
March 18, 2017

So what did the early settlers grow in their gardens when they came to the New World?  
I loved reading the "Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way" to learn more about gardening in the 1700's Virginia.  The author actually runs a "re-inactment" vegetable garden in Williamsburg, using old fashioned heirlooms and methods.  What a great way to keep our agricultural history alive!

Read on for what was growing in colonial gardens.  For each type is the variety name found in 1700's Virginia seed catalogs.

Beans and peas 
Broad beans (Mazagan, Windsor, Long Podded, White Blossom, Lisbon, Sandwich, Toker, Nonpareil, Battersea, Hotspur),
Peas (Hotspur, Charlton Hotspur, Early Golden Hotspur, Ormand Hotspur, Master Hotspur, Reading Hotspur, Leadman's Dwarf, Early Frame, Six Weeks Pease, Nichol's Early, Green Rouncival, Dutch Admiral, Dwarf Marrowfat, Egg Pea, Spanish Morrotto, Sugar Dwarf),
Storage Beans (various yellow, scarlet, white and black beans, White Dwarf Kidney, Speckled French, Canterbury Dwarf Kidney, Goosecraw, Hominy),
Green beans (French, What Dutch, Scarlet Blossom),
Lima (Lima, Carolina White, Large Sugar).

Cabbage Family
Kale (Curled Green Kale, Siberian Borecole, Jersey),
Cabbage (White, Early Dutch, White Dutch, Large Winter, Scotch, Large Hollow, Sugar Loaf, Battersea, Early York, Yorkshire, Russia, Yellow Savoy, Green Savoy, Red, Madeira),
Cauliflower (Early Colliflower, Late Cauliflower),
Broccoli (Roman, Italien, Early Purple, Late Purple, Colliflower Broccoli, Green, Yellow),
Kohlrabi (Turnip Cabbage, Turnip Colewort)

Salad greens
Lettuce (Tennis Ball, Brown Dutch, White Cass, Black Cass, Egyptian Coss, Versailles Coss, Roman, Italian Loaf, Aleppo, Curled, Cabbage Lettuce, Ice, Imperial, Capuchin, Silesia, Nonpareil), Spinach (Summer, Broad leaf, Round, Winter, Prickly),
Endive (Curled, Broadleaf),
Parsley (Curled, Double, Common, Roman),
Chard (White Beet),
Cress (watercress-Scurvy Grass, winter/upland cress, garden cress-Double Peppergrass, Indian cress),
Mustard (White, Red),
Corn Salad/Lamb's Lettuce/Mache,

Crops under cover

Root crops
Carrots (white, orange-Short Orange, Early, Horn, Long Orange)
Radish (Scarlet, Salmon, Short-topped, Rose, Black Turnip, White Spanish, Black Spanish, Purple Turnip)
Turnip (Large English, Norfolk, Early Hanover, Large Field, Stewart's, Cambell's, Norway, Reynold's, Early Dutch, White-Round, Red Ring, Round Red, Purple (Purple Top), Early Green)
Beets (Red)
Potatoes (Irish-probably Northward, White Irish, Red, Blue)
Sweet Potato (Spanish, Bermuda)
Jerusalem Artichoke

Onion Family
Onions (White Spanish, Portugal, Silver Skin, Madeira, Deptford, Strasburg, Red)
Leeks (Leek, London Leek)
Welsh Onion (Welsh, Ciboule)

Cucumbers and melons
Cucumbers (Long Prickly, Short Prickly, White, Gerkin)
Melons (Fine, Italien, Orange and Green Streak, Zatta Mellon, Diarbeke Mellon, Early Musk-Melon, Orange Musk-Melon, Netted Wrought Mellon, White Netted Mellon, Green Netted Mellon, Green Fleshed Mellon, Pineapple Melon, Roman Melon, Sweet Smelling Mellon, Fragrant Melon, Portugal Melon, Pocket Melon, Turkey Cucumber)
Watermelon (Pistoia, Naples)

Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds
These are all indigenous to the Americas
Squash and Pumpkin (pumpkin-all kinds and colors, pattypan, cushaws, warted, crookneck, acorn, buttercup, Hubbard, turban, banana, butternut, golden cushaw, cheese pumpkin)
Gourds-many varieties, many uses

Tomatoes and peppers
Indigenous to the Americas
Tomatoes (no varieties listed in Virginia 18th century seed catalogs.  Would have been many lobed.)
Peppers (Cayenne, Indian, Piperone)

Luxuries and oddities
Artichoke (Artichoke, Globe Artichoke)
Cardoon-not listed in a seed catalogs
Celery (Italien, Solid Celery)
Celeriac (Celleriack, Dwarf Celeriack)
Asparagus (Asparagus, White Asparagus)


Growing techniques
Manure hotbed-Horse manure with straw bedding was used to keep the hotbed warm to get warm season crops seedlings started.
Bark bed heated with tankark a waste product from leather tanning.  Used in stovehouses (greenhouses) for raising tropical fruits like pineapple.
Hotbeds were dug into the ground a couple of feet and lined with bricks to act as an insulator.  Several inches of horse manure with straw bedding was placed in the bed, allowed to age a few days, then topped with soil and when the temperature is between 70-80 degrees, seeds are planted.  Close attention has to be paid with opening and closing the window type lid so that the plants don't overheat on warm sunny days.
Of note, fresh manure can have the bad microbes like e. coli.  It is recommended to fully compost any manure to eliminate the risk and to "cool" the manure so as not to burn the plants.
Cloches were not common as they had to be bought in Europe so were expensive.  They were used to help overwinter cabbage and keep warm season crops protected early in the season.  Like covered hotbeds, close attention has to be kept so plants don't overheat on hot days, venting and closing as needed.
Paper row covers
There were row covers that were made and used in kitchen gardens.  They are similar to our row covers today with arched wood covered with paper.  The paper was glued to the frame and overlapped between sheets.  After constructed, it was covered with an oil like linseed.  They were primarily used for protecting young melons in the spring.  
Growing sticks (garden stakes)
Garden stakes were made from saplings that were cut to the ground and produced straight sucker re-growth which made great garden stakes.
Cloches in the garden

Fertilizing and watering
Fertilizer in colonial times was mainly manure.  The favorite for most was horse manure with wet straw bedding for hot beds or overwinter fertilizing.  Fully dried manure was used by mixing into the soil.  Other animal manures were also used.  Poultry manure is more concentrated.  Hog manure was not recommended.
This was the hardest part of the garden and the reason many kitchen gardens could not sustain a family.  All water had to be hauled by hand.  During the summer, it was hard if not impossible for one person to keep up with the water needs of a garden.

I enjoyed reading about colonial gardening.  It was interesting that the gardens of yesteryear is not so different from the modern garden.  Just a lot easier to care for!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Started seeds indoors this week end!

Aerogarden after 2 weeks
Saturday, March 11, 2017

Started seeds this week end indoors!  It is not quite time for the summer fav's.........

I started seeds for the plants that thrive in cool weather.  In addition to the ones that I am planting in this year's garden, you can also start broccoli, cauliflower cabbage, kale, and onions.  I am staying away from the broccoli family this year because I have had problems with beetles the last two years.  Skipping a year should really cut back their numbers.  I just love sprouting broccoli and kale for salads and smoothies!  If the beetles die out, I may be able to plant them in the fall.  We shall see......

I get great germination rates using my Aerogarden, a hydroponic system.  You can easily start seeds in peat pods or seed starting mix, keep moist and put in a warm spot.  Just be sure the growing medium you use is sterile to reduce disease.   See Indoor seed starting tips for more on how to start seeds indoors.

What I sowed indoors this week end: 
Beets-Chiogga (65 days to harvest) All about beautiful beets
Brussel sprouts-Red Rubine (harvest in the fall)
Carrot-Gniff and Cosmic Purple (50-80 days)  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round
Celery-Utah (75 days)  Give celery a try, an easy to grow garden staple
Chard-Verde de Taglio, Bright Lights, Rainbow Neon Glow, Fordhook Giant, Golden (60 days)
For year round steamed greens, grow chard!
Chervil (40 days) Make your own fragrant herbal body oil
Cilantro-Slo Bolt (40-60 days)  Start a kitchen herb garden!
Dandelion-Red Italian (65 days)  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
Dill- Bouquet, Dukat, Grandma Einck's (70 days for foliage, 90 days for seeds)
Dwarf Moringa-small tree with high protein leaves
Hibiscus-Roselle Red (90 days from seed)
Mustard-Red Giant (40 days)
Oregano-Wild Zaatar from Israel/Jordan  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"
Radish Singara Rat's Tail (50-60 days)
Sage-Blue Monday, Salvia Sirius Blue (50-60 days to bloom)
Spinach-Long Standing, Perpetual, Oriental Giant, Spiros, Teton, New Zealand, Bordeaux (40-52 days)
Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
Strawberry-Regina (60-85 days)  Back yard strawberries  Fruit for small spaces
Turnip-Purple-Top White Globe and Golden Globe (55 days)  All about turnips
Tyfon (30-40 days)

I'll start the summer, heat lovers in a couple more weeks like cucumber, squash, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, peppers, okra, basil and flowers.

Next week end, I will direct sow my peas (I love growing snow peas for salads), potatoes, lettuce and more spinach.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Protect your new plants from a late frost

Portable greenhouse
Thursday, March 9, 2017

When temperatures start hitting the 70's, the desire to rush out get veggies and plant them becomes almost irresistible!  It is too early to plant summer loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers and basil without giving them a "coat" of sorts to protect them against those sudden drops in temperatures we will inevitably get between now and mid-May. 
There can definitely be freezing temperatures that blow in this time of year.  So, warm season crops can melt overnight with one good frost.  Even cold crops like new lettuce plants can be killed if the temps drop into the teens, like is forecasted this week end.
What can you do to protect them?  
*Throw a sheet or plastic or other light weight cover over them when the cold snap comes in.  I remember my grandmother putting a sheet over hers.
*Buy “cloches” which are little plastic or glass bell shaped covers and place over each plant.  
*Put a portable greenhouse over them. 
*Use wall of water.  They really do work!
*Another option is to plant them in pots so you can bring them into the garage when temperatures get into the 30's and 40's.
*I am keeping some plants on the covered deck.  This will keep them protected from frost, but tender plants like basil won't make it through nights at or below freezing on a porch.

The watch-out for covering with plastic, cloches or greenhouses is that you can fry your plants if you leave them closed up during sunny, warmer days.  The cloches that I have come with vents that I can leave open, but I have had casualties even with leaving the vent open.  My portable mini-greenhouse has a zipper opening that makes it easy to vent.  For plastic sheeting, you will either have to remove it when it warms up or have a way for the ends to be opened to allow cooler air to circulate and keep the plastic off the plants themselves. 
This time of year we get some real wide swings in temps.
Surprisingly, I had some peppers under cover and others that were not, and the uncovered peppers did just fine, even when the temperature dropped to 28 degrees.  Getting down into the teens would kill any pepper plants.

For more on extending the season, Extend the season with protection for plants

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Planted this week end

Overwintering onions

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Looks like the 60's are here for the next couple of weeks.  Time to get planting!  Our local Ace has cold crop plants for sale.

We cleaned out the garden beds, getting ready for the composted horse manure and mulch.  Until prepared, we won't plant in the beds.

We did plant cabbage and pansies in my mother-in-law's garden bed.  We planted lettuce and spinach in our self-watering pots.  I also put fertilizer in with each plant to give them a strong start.

Freshly planted spinach with chickweed, a nutritious addition to salads
Other greens that are up-cultivated dandelions, overwintered kale, sorrel, onions, tarragon, parsley and chives.  All great additions to salads!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 2017 Edible Garden Planner

Picture of garden in late March

Ah, feels like spring has sprung!  Now is the time to test your soil, get your garden beds ready for planting, and plan your spring garden.  

Soil Preparation
You can take a soil sample to our local county co-op extension office to have it tested or buy a do it yourself kit at any big box store or local nursery.  You can do a more extensive soil test by sending your soil sample off.  Here is a link to my blog on soil nutrition:  The next step in garden production and your nutrit...  There is a great analysis web site that will provide a specialized fertilizer designed just for your garden deficiencies that you can make yourself.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of testing, a sure way to enrich your soil is to use a balanced organic fertilizer and compost.  I add organic material every spring with compost and mulching the garden beds, building the soil’s fertility and its ability to hold water.

A local CSA and organic gardener told me a few years ago that it is important to not let your fertilizer just lay on top of the ground as many of the nutrients will be lost.  This spring, we will put down an organic fertilizer Re-Vita Pro 5-4-4, a layer of homemade compost with any additional mushroom compost needed and top with mulch.  You can make your own balanced fertilizer, too, of Re-Vita isn't available in your area  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

If this is your first time gardening, here is a how to get started Easy kitchen garden

Ideas of what to plant in March:
Green Oakleaf Lettuce-ready to harvest in 45 days  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Wild Garden Kales-ready to harvest in 30 days Grow one of the super greens this year-kale
Mesclun Valentine Lettuce mix (red tinted lettuce and greens)-ready to harvest in 30-55 days
Marvel of Four Seasons Butterhead Lettuce (I love the sweet taste of butterheads)-ready to harvest in 55 days
Red Sails Lettuce (a ruffled red and green, stays sweet even after bolting)-ready to harvest in 45 days
Space Hybrid Spinach-ready to harvest in 38 days  Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
Gourmet Blend Lettuce (Prizeleaf, Royal Oak Leaf, Salad Bowl, Ashley)-ready to harvest in 45 days
Sugar snap peas-ready to harvest in 70 days Time to plant peas!
All kinds of broccoli or cauliflower-ready to harvest in 50-80 days (leaves are great in salads) Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips
Cabbage-ready to harvest in 68 days.  Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow
Carrots-ready to harvest in 50-75 days  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round
Potatoes-ready to begin harvest in 70 days  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio

These can be companion planted with radishes, beets, chives, garlic, and onions.  Since they are shallow rooted, they grow well with root crops.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!

When I plant in pots, I plant with a handful of worm compost and water in with fish emulsion.  Germination should take anywhere from 4-15 days., depending on how warm the soil is.  I am sure I will be out there looking for little green shoots daily.  Decorative container gardening for edibles

Important tip-if planting seeds in a mulched bed, be sure to cover the seed with only soil; seedlings are too weak to push through mulch.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds 

Picture of garden in late March
Zone 6 Spring Garden Roadmap

Planting your seedlings outdoors:
Now (or as soon as the soil can be worked)-fruit trees and vines, nut trees, asparagus, garlic, peas
End March-cabbage, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, mustards, spinach
Beginning of April-lettuce, lemon balm, parsley
Mid-April-broccoli, cauliflower, thyme
End April-sage
First of May-basil, chives, cucumbers, tomatoes
Mid-May-cantaloupe, eggplant, marigolds, pepper

Starting your seeds outdoors:
Now (or as soon as the soil can be worked): peas, spinach, lettuce
Mid-March: arugula, bok choy, cabbage, carrot, collards, leeks, lettuce, mache, onion. rhubarb, cultivated dandelions, spinach
End March:  fava beans, beets, broccoli, carrot, Chinese cabbage, cress, kale, kohlrabi, leek, mizuna, parsley, parsnip, early potatoes, turnip

One watch out is planting seeds too soon.  Seeds have to have a certain soil temperature to sprout.  Plant too soon and the seed will rot and not sprout.  Here are some soil temp guidelines.

Starting your seeds indoors for summer planting:
Now-chives, leeks, lemon balm, onions, parsley, sage, thyme, lettuce, cress, mustard, chard, spinach
Mid-March-basil, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, okra, marigolds, eggplant
End of March-cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes

These dates are just guidelines.  You can start your seedlings later and plant your transplants later as well.  Be sure to read the seed packet for what you are starting.  They make all kinds of varieties that are cold hardy and can be planted sooner than what I outlined above.

The big box stores and local nurseries are good sources of plants too.  If you are just getting started, purchasing from a local nursery or farmers market will get you started with varieties that do well in your area.

Happy gardening!