Sunday, May 26, 2019

Mustard greens

baby Giant Red Mustard on right in middle

May 25, 2019

Many think of mustard as the yellow condiment you put on burgers and hot dogs.  There are many varieties of mustard that are grown for their leaves.  Mustard leaves get stronger as the weather gets hotter.  They definitely have a "bite" similar to arugula. 

Mustards come in different heights, colors and leave types.  They are a great add to salads, cooked and in cooking.  Mustard greens are chock full of antioxidants, manganese, calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C and K, and folate.  Nutritional info

Giant Red Mustard
Mustard greens can be cultivated in the spring or for fall.  They produce well throughout the summer and overwinter down to 0 F.  Ideal sowing times are March-May for spring/summer harvests and July-August for fall/winter harvests.   They prefer rich soil and should be kept moist until sprouted.  

Sow seeds on the soil, then rake in.  Seeds will sprout in 3-4 days.  Harvesting can begin as soon as 10 days.  You can also buy them as bedding plants in the spring.  If you do want mustard seed, they will be ready in 8-10 weeks.  In summer months, they appreciate some afternoon shade.

You can basically use as you would arugula.  You can also eat the new leaves in salads or sauté or steam the larger leaves.  You can harvest the outer leaves when they are 3-4” long for cooking or salads.  Store at 32 degrees F and high humidity in the frig for the longest life.

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

FMy favorite varieties to grow are Giant Red, Ruby Streaks and Golden Streaks.  Ruby and Golden Streaks are striking in salads.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Grow a southern favorite-collards

May 25, 2019

Collards are a vegetable that has always been associated with the South in the U.S. and appeared in the late 1700’s.  The Celts cultivated these greens, causing the birth of kale, broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kohlrabi.  There is even evidence that ancient Greeks cultivated collards 2000 years ago.  The ancient Greek varieties have gone extinct.  

Collards are not only beautiful, it is good for you!  Collards are chock full of antioxidants, beta carotene, lutein, vitamins A, C and K, and folate.  It also contains compounds that are potent against cancer, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol.  Nutritional info

Collards can be cultivated in the spring or for fall.  They produce well throughout the summer and overwinter down to 0 F.  Ideal sowing times are March-May for spring/summer harvests and July-August for fall/winter harvests.  You can still get a variety that was grown in gardens in the early 1800's "Green Glaze".

Collards prefer rich soil and should be kept moist until sprouted.  Sow seeds 1/4” deep with 18-24" final spacing.  You can also buy them as bedding plants in the spring.

Collards are a biennial meaning they will go do seed in the second year of life.  Their seed pods are quite tasty as well.  Pick when the pods are young and prepare as you would green beans.  Use the pretty yellow flowers in salads.  Frost makes the leaves sweeter so there are 3 great reasons to keep in the garden over the winter!

You can basically use collards as you would kale.  One of the fun ways to prepare 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.  You can harvest the outer leaves when they are 6-8” long for cooking or juicing.  Store at 32 degrees F and high humidity in the frig for the longest life.

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 collards and other greens to maintain the taste.  Freezing the extras for winter

Sunday, May 19, 2019

"Hardening off" seedlings

Seedlings on the deck, hardening
Sunday, May 19, 2019

You have probably heard of "hardening off" seedlings.  This is preparing the seedling for the more extreme conditions it will experience in the garden or pot.  Otherwise, the green, happy seedling can easily wilt, dry up and die.  Even when you harden your seedling, pay close attention to it after planting.  Consistent moisture is key for the first couple of weeks.
Hardening is important through all garden seasons.  In colder temperatures, the shock of going from warm to cold can be too much.  In hotter months, shock of comfortable temperatures to hot temperatures can also be too much.  In all seasons, going from indoors to direct outdoor sun can scald the plant's leaves.

After your seedlings have sprouted indoors, remove the cover, if using one.  Let the top 1/4" of the soil dry out between waterings.  I like to put the water in the tray and let the seedlings take up the moisture.  If watering overhead, be careful and use a diffused watering head so the tender seedlings are not crushed.  Keep the seedlings indoors until the second set of leaves appear; these are the first "true" leaves. 
Sprouted seedlings in a hydroponic system
It's best if warm enough, to move the seed tray outdoors away from direct sun in an area protected from wind gusts.  A gentle breeze keeps the seedlings from getting the fungus that causes them to keel over and die, called "dampening off".  A breeze also helps the seedlings stems get stronger.  I like putting mine on our covered deck.

If it is still cold at night, bring your seedlings indoors during these times.  Over two weeks, gradually expose your seedlings to more light.

After two weeks outdoors, look for the opportune time to plant.  It is best to plant when it is going to be cloudy for a few days.  Ideally, with a light rain in the forecast.

Plant at the same depth in the garden or pot as the seedling was in the container.  Be gentle when removing the seedling; breaking its stem can kill the plant.  Tap on the sides of the container to loosen the soil from the side.  Gently turn over and remove the seedling.  A spoon can also be used to scoop out the seedling.

If your seedling was in a peat pot, you can plant the pot and all.  I like to break open the bottom before planting to give the roots free reign in getting to the garden soil.  Don't let any of the peat pot be exposed above the ground as it can act as a wick for removing moisture from around the seedling.  Either fold the top edges flat and cover with soil or just tear off the exposed edges.

Once planted, firm the soil just to make sure that there are no air pockets and the seedling has a solid foundation.  Fertilizing with a liquid fish emulsions at planting gives the seedlings a nutritional boost.

Keep an eye on your seedlings.  Make sure they are getting consistent moisture for the first couple of weeks.  if the ground is moist, there is no need to water.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Create garden "loam"

Garden bed "loam"
Sunday, May 5, 2019

The optimum soil type for gardening is called "loam".  If your soil is not the rich, dark color of loam and not light and fluffy, don't despair as you can create beautiful, black loam in just a couple of years without much effort. 

 What gives loam its dark color is lots of organic material.  In the Midwest and Upper South, we have nice orange clay soil.  It is great at holding lots of water when saturated.  Some think adding sand is the thing to do to get better drainage in the soil.  What you really want to do is to add more organic material. Organic matter helps with drainage and supports lots of microbial life which nourishes plants.

There are options for getting more organic material into your soil.  You can add compost, peat, leaves, sawdust, composted manure, or coir to the soil and till it in.  Peat is not a renewable resource.  Sawdust and leaves require a few months to decompose so are good options in the fall for your spring garden.

For your spring garden, adding compost or composted leaves or manure a couple of weeks before planting works.

I avoid tilling as it destroys the soil structure that takes a year or longer to rebuild.  Tilling also creates a hard pan at the depth of the bottom of the tiller tines that makes it hard for drainage and root growth through it.  I prefer to add wood mulch as a cover in the garden to create loam.  It decomposes and adds organic matter into the soil.  Mulch also increase pH and calcium in the soil.  In 3 years, you have dark, organic rich soil in the top 6" of the garden bed.  

Earthworms love cardboard.  They are tireless "tiller" and fertilizers of soil.  You can put a layer of cardboard over the garden bed, then cover with mulch.  In just a few months, you will have soft, fluffy soil that plants can spread their roots easily and absorbs water well without  becoming water logged.  For all new beds I put in, I always put down a layer of compost and fertilizer topped with cardboard.

Other blogs that may be of interest are:

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Starting your own all natural, organic garden

Newly planted edibles in the flower garden
Saturday, May 4, 2019

If you are thinking of starting an edible garden without using chemicals, now is a great time to start an all natural, organic garden.  You don't need much space to get a lot of fresh produce and even fruits.  Organic gardening isn't harder than conventional gardening with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  The reason I garden organically is it just doesn't seem like something that is designed to kill other living things whether it be weeds or bugs could be good for you or your family to eat.   

 Growing your own food can be therapeutic and cost effective.  I grow all my edibles either in a pot or in my flower beds.  This way you don't have to worry about hoeing weeds and grass out of the garden.  You take care of your edibles just like you do your flowers; using mulch to keep the weeds at bay.

Studies have shown that organically (all natural) grown foods contain 18-69% more antioxidants than those grown conventionally (with synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides) as reported by the British Journal of Nutrition.  These synthetics inhibit a plant's production of phytonutrients, according to  Makes sense to me since herbicides and pesticides are designed to kill other living things.

Here are the steps to get started: 
Step 1  Buy the basic gardening tools you will need.  I use a trowel, gardening gloves (the ones with rubber on the fingers to keep my fingers clean and dry), and a foam pad to kneel on when gardening.

Step 2  Decide where to put your little garden.  Most fruits and veggies need 6-8 hours of sun to do their best.  Make sure to put the tall plants like tomatoes in the back.  Give bush veggies like zucchini and cucumbers plenty of space and easily accessible to pick regularly.  Plan to tuck your veggies in and around your flowers.

Step 3  Do a soil test to see what your garden bed needs for the optimum growth.  Dig out a core 6" deep in various locations in the garden.  Mix all the soil together and take to your local extension office to get tested.  Many do the test for free or a small fee.  If you want to just get started, use a balanced organic fertilizer for vegetables.
Edibles in pots
Step 4  Start small!  The number one reason people get overwhelmed with edible gardening is trying to do too much all at once.  You can grow a nice garden in just a 6' by 6' space.  Here are some easy to grow summer veggies to start with:
2 tomato plants (one plant with large tomatoes for sandwiches and pizza, one with small for salads and snacking)  
2 pepper plants (one sweet pepper plant and one spicy pepper plant)  
1 bush zucchini plant  
1 bush cucumber plant  
1 eggplant  

The peppers, zucchini, cucumber and eggplant can all be grown in pots if you prefer.  Decorative container gardening for edibles
Edibles in the flower garden in summer
Step 5  Plant!  Add the amendments around each veggie as you plant them.  Give a monthly supplement of nitrogen around each plant through the growing season.  I use blood meal for quick nitrogen for your plants.

Now, watch it grow!  Summer garden tips 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

What to plant in the May edible garden

End of May garden
Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May is a "shoulder" month.  The cold crops are peaking and it is warm enough to start the summer lovers like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and eggplants.

Here is a list of plants and seeds you can put in the May garden: 
May-transplants or seeds
Bee balm (monarda)
Beans-bush and pole
Brussels sprouts
Cilantro (Slo Bolt)
Fruit bushes
Lemon balm
Lettuce (heat tolerant)
Summer and winter squash
Sweet potatoes

May-start from seeds directly in the garden
Beans (snap-bush & pole)

For tips on starting your seeds in the garden:  Outdoor seed starting tips  I also like to put a pot on our covered deck and start seeds there.  Once they are to a good size, I transplant them into their permanent pot of into the garden bed.  Vegetables you can grow in pots