Sunday, September 27, 2020

Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Cabbage likely was domesticated in Europe before 1000 BC.  Cabbage came over to America with the first settlers.  Today there are 3 different types of cabbages-heading, conical, and loose.  They also come in shades of red, purple and green.  I do love the blue green color and crinkly leaves of savoy cabbage.  Even the ornamental cabbage you see in the fall are not only beautiful, but also edible.

Cabbage contains beta-carotene, vitamin C, and fiber.  Cabbage has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancers.  Purple cabbage also has anthocyanins which have been proven in other vegetables to have anti-cancer properties.  Raw cabbage nutritional data.

Cabbage is a member of the brassica family.  They all enjoy cool weather and are biennials.  They are grown as an annual.  They produce a head the first year that is harvested and we eat.  If the head is not harvested, the plant will flower the second year.  Both the leaves and head of the plant is edible.  

Cabbage can be grown for spring, fall, or winter harvest.  They are sown a season prior to when you want to harvest them.  For spring, sow seeds in August.  For fall and winter, sow seeds in June/July.   For fall/winter transplants, you will plant in the garden when the weather begins to cool.  You just pick the longer maturing date types for winter harvests.
A spring edible garden          A fall edible garden

Fall savoy cabbage
If you don't plant in August and still want cabbage in the spring, chose types with short maturity dates and plant very early in the spring.  You want the cabbage to produce a head before the heat of summer.  Cabbage is easy to start from seed indoors. Early April or when the crocus blooms is a good time to plant for spring harvests.   

Late storage types will keep up to 6 months if properly stored at around 32 degrees and high humidity.

Cabbages like a rich, organic soil with a pH of 6.5-6.8.  Place in a location that gets full sun to slight shade, 18-24" apart. or grow in pots.  Since cabbage is a 'leaf crop", nitrogen is important.  Take a soil test to see what you need to add or use a balanced fertilizer at planting and a liquid fertilizer when the head begins for form.  Maintain consistent moisture through the growing season during dry spells.
Potted mini cabbage in spring
Be sure to rotate plantings to minimize pests.  You do not want to plant any broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage in the same spot for at least 2 years as they share the same pests.  Ideal rotation is every 4 years.  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens  

The biggest pest for cabbage are slugs, cabbage worms and cabbage loopers.  If you see those pretty, pale yellow moths flitting around your garden, these are the cabbage moths.  You can avoid them by planting early enough in the spring that you are harvesting before temperatures are consistently in the 80's and wait to plant transplants after the weather has cooled down in the fall.  Otherwise, you can spray with bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), an organic spray that is only harmful to the caterpillars, at the first sign of leaf damage.  Bt needs to be reapplied after a rain or every 7 days to be effective.  It's easiest to just grow during the cool weather when cabbage worms and loopers are not active.

There are many types of cabbage, from super large storage types to mini cabbages that are great for pots, to the leafy types that are good for steaming or salads.  I am growing a Chinese cabbage, Hilton, that is great to use for wraps or salads.  It has a very mild flavor.  

For preserving cabbage, you will need to blanch before freezing.  There is always sauerkraut as well that is pretty easy to make.  How to preserve cabbage.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Peppers a Plenty in September

Ancho (top) and Jalapeño peppers (bottom)
Saturday, September 26, 2020

My peppers kick into high gear come September.  They seem to love the lower humidity and cooler nights.  Peppers originated in the mountains of Mexico so September into October are perfect weather conditions for peppers.

Nikita hybrid sweet pepper
Surprisingly, even though peppers originated in the tropics and subtropics of South America, peppers don’t like extremely hot weather.  They get sunburned when the temps get into the 90’s consistently.  Their sunburn looks like dark spots on the exposed fruits.  If you can, move them into the shade when temps are extreme.  They won’t croak, but they are stressed during periods of high heat.
Summer garden tips

Peppers like sulfur, calcium (to protect from blossom end rot), magnesium (helps flowers make fruits), sulfur (makes more nutritious pepper) and phosphorous (for flowering).  You can use the same fertilizer as you do for tomatoes; both encourage healthy fruit growth.

Be careful with the nitrogen.  Nitrogen promotes greenery.  You will end up with beautiful, lush plants with no flowers or fruits.  Also be careful in the type of potting soil you buy if planting in pots to make sure they are not for green leaved plants, but for flowers or vegetables.

Right now, I have a snacking sweet pepper from last year's seed, Pimento Elite, and cayenne peppers growing in pots.  Overall, peppers grow better for me in pots..

The sweet peppers I rough slice the extras and freeze for salsa.  Quick, homemade salsa  The pimentos, I chop and freeze for salads; they stay firm even after frozen.  I have plenty of frozen Jalapeños from last year so didn't plant any this year.  I use Jalapeños and cayenne peppers for salsa.  The cayennes I also put in apple cider vinegar to ferment for hot sauce for wings for football games.  After about 4 weeks, I put them through the food processor and my hot sauce is ready to use.  Homemade wings sauce

I had plenty of chili powder this year so I did not grow Poblano/Ancho and Anaheim.  I dry these and grind for using in chili.  I will need to grow some again next year.  They also seem to do best in pots.  Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies
Homemade hot sauce
Yum!  Yum!

If you smoke your Jalapeño peppers, you will get Chipotle peppers.  I have smoked some Jalapeños, dried them and ground them up to make Chipotle powder for seasoning dishes.  Or you can add natural smoke flavor to the pepper before drying to get that smoky flavor after dehydrated.

The heat of the pepper is in the ribs and seeds.  If you like spicy, be sure to keep these.  When handling spicy peppers, it is a good idea to wear gloves and be careful to not rub your eyes, nose or mouth until you wash your hands thoroughly.

You can also save these seeds and plant in next year's garden.  Just be sure to let them dry before you put them in an air tight container.  I store my seeds in ziplocks in the frig and they last for years.

Pimento peppers
We grow most of our peppers in pots.  I try to grow enough peppers to last us all winter for chili and salsa.  The hot peppers like Jalapeños and Cayenne seem to do best in pots.  The Pimentos were average producers in the ground.  I have grown them in pots in the past and there doesn’t seem to be much difference in production.  The sweet peppers do well in pots.  The Poblano was grown in the garden and the Anaheim in the ground.  Both produced well.  I grow all my peppers in pots unless I run out of pots, then they go in the ground. 
If you had plants that did extremely well, peppers are perennials.  You can simply bring them inside for the winter.  They will continue to produce through January indoors.  The best chance of surviving through the winter requires a good amount of full sun exposure.  When you put them back outside in the spring, you will be the first on the block with homegrown peppers!  If you decide bringing indoors is too much of a hassle or you don’t have the space, save the seeds from the best fruit of the plant so you can propagate next year.  Hybrids will not grow true to seed so you will either have to overwinter or buy a new plant or seeds in the spring.  You can try the seed, but the offspring typically does not turn out with the same traits as the parent.  
A friend shared with me that he thought he was going to give up trying to grow vegetables because all he got was pretty plants with no fruits.  He was growing them in pots.  

My suggestion-don’t give up!  Since you are doing a great job with greenery, go for vegetables that are leafy, like lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, herbs, chard, and other greens.  Now is a great time to replant with these type of plants.

On the other hand, if you get all greenery and no fruit and your plant is in full sun, the most likely culprit is too much nitrogen fertilizer.  This can happen to any fruiting plant.  I fertilize once a month with an organic, balanced fertilizer and typically one for tomatoes as they are made with the nutrients fruiting plants need.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Want a vegetable and fruit garden that you only have to plant once? Try perennials!

Blood veined sorrel
Sunday, September 20, 2020

Have you heard of perennial vegetables?  Well, they do exist!  You plant them once and they grow back every year.  They are the first ones to show their faces in the spring and the last to die back in the fall.  Fall is a great time to plant perennials.

The following are perennial vegetables in Zone 6/7 in the Midwest:
French sorrel, radicchio, chard, Good King Henry (spinach relative), chicory, salad burnet, rhubarb, sunchoke, daylily (yes, they are edible), ostrich fern, watercress, mountain sorrel, arrowhead, Welsh onion, Egyptian walking onion, potato onion, ramps, garlic chives, chives, groundnut, udo, asparagus, sea kale, jinenjo, Chinese yam, wood nettle, lovage, water celery, fuki, pokeweed, giant Solomon’s seal, ‘Profusion’ sorrel, silver shield sorrel, scorzonera, skirret, Chinese artichoke, dandelion, linden, nettles, ‘Western Front’ perennial kale, sylvetta arugula, Turkish rocket, Cusick’s camass, perennial sweet leek, yellow asphodel, saltbush, sea beet, ‘Tree Collards/Walking Stick Kale’, tropical tree kale, perennial broccoli (including ‘9 Star’), branching bush kale (including ‘Dorbenton’), wild cabbage, achira, taro and ‘Celery Stem’ tato, chufa, air potato, wolfberry, water lotus, fragrant spring tree, canebrake bamboo, skirret.There is a long list of perennial vegetables, particularly greens. Many are hard to find the seed for or a starter plant.  There are several that are easy to find, though!  Fall is the perfect time to plant any perennial.  Perennials are also the first up in the spring.

It is a long list.  Many are hard to find the seed for or a starter plant.  There are several that are easy to find, though!
The perennial vegetables we currently grow:
**French sorrel (good for soups, steamed or a salad green)
**Blood-veined sorrel (striking salad green)
**Chard (perennial if grown in a sheltered area)  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!
**Garden sorrel (soups, steamed or salad green)
**Corn salad (salad green)
**Radicchio (good steamed, roasted or a salad green)
**Good King Henry (spinach relative, use as a salad green)
**Salad burnett (taste somewhat like a Granny Smith apple, use fresh in salads)  Salad burnet-a great herbal salad addition
**Egyptian walking onion (use fresh for cooking or salads)  Egyptian walking onions
**Potato onions (stores well)
**Perennial kale (good steamed or as salad green)  Grow one of the super greens this year-kale
**Chives (salads or flavoring cream cheese, butter, sour cream, dips)  Add chives to your garden
**Arugula (peppery flavor, great for salads)
**French and American dandelion (great for salads)  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
**Daylily (flower buds can be eaten like green beans, flowers in salads)  Flowers that are edible
**Celery-not advertised as a perennial but ours is coming back for the third year.....  Give celery a try, an easy to grow garden staple

Other popular perennial vegetables you may want to add are sea kale, rhubarb, lovage, groundnut, asparagus, artichokes, collards, or Jerusalem artichokes.
All about asparagus   Growing artichokes and cardoons   Grow a southern favorite-collards   
Potted orange, fig and kumquat

Most fruits are also perennials:
**Apple, pear, cherry, peach, pawpaw and fig trees
**Blueberry bushes
**Grape, goji berry, passionflower, kiwi, raspberry and blackberry vines
Fruit for small spaces

Fall is the perfect time to plant any perennial.  There are lots of fruit bushes available at the big box stores this time of year, too.  The varieties at the neighborhood stores will be the ones that are well adapted for your area.

You can mail order any perennial this time of year as well.

Chives in bloom
Then there are the herbs.  Most herbs are perennials.  Here are ones we are growing.
**ARP and Barbeque rosemary
**Lemon balm

Another option for a plant 'em once are self seeding annuals. They drop seeds in the garden bed and sprout in the spring.  For more on them, 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

What's happening in the mid September edible garden

September edible garden
Sunday, September 19, 2020

Self seeding flowers like zinnias, hummingbird vine, morning glory and cock's comb are in full splendor right now.  Edible Mediterranean plants love this weather, too.  Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra, Egyptian walking onions, cucumbers, the Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, chives, savory, dill, tarragon and thyme and all types of greens enjoy the bright sunshine and temperatures in the 70's.  We are preserving everything we have extra right now.  It is so rewarding to know that we can eat food we grew year round.

In the last week, we have seen the temps go from the highs in the 90's to the highs in the 70's.  Quite the change!  It definitely feels like fall is on its way.

I fertilized at the beginning of the month with an organic fertilizer from Espoma.  With natural fertilizers you don’t have to worry about “burning” your plants as they slowly release into the ground.   This may be the last time we fertilize this season. You should fertilize about once a month through the growing season.  You don’t want to shoot too much nitrogen to your fruit producers as you can end up with all leaves and no veggie fruits.  

It is important to get all your winter and overwintering veggies and greens up to full size prior to early November.  The days are so short come November that there will be minimal growth from November to mid January.  A fall edible garden

Our garlic has finished hardening.  It is recommended you leave garlic and onions you want to store in 80+ degree temperatures in the shade for a couple of weeks.  Ours have been hardening on the covered patio for about 6 weeks.  It is now ready to plant in the waning of the moon next month, if you want to follow the moon sign.  Garlic can be planted any time between now and end of October.  October is prime time to plant garlic
Okra leaves up front, sweet potato vines, zinnias and cock's comb behind
This year was not a banner year for my tomatoes and zucchini.  I think it was because we had so much rain.  It was a record year for summer rainfall.  The zucchini plants died back over a month ago.  We are still getting some fruits from the tomatoes but they are producing slowly and the plants are spindly.  My dwarf potted tomato plant is still doing quite well, Little Napoli.  Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

There is still enough tomatoes that I am continuing to freeze what we don't ear.  Fall is the time that I will take any frozen tomatoes left over from last year and can.  This year, I don't have any left over, but have lots and lots of canned sauce from the previous year.  Preserving the tomato harvest       Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

The chives, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, oregano, parsley, celery, and sage are all doing quite well.  The Egyptian walking onions are thriving.  All will do well through the fall and into the winter.  Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner

My pepper plants are doing fine.  The plants grew quite large this year in their pots. The Pimento Elite pepper plant is full of green peppers.  The sweet maroon and cayenne pepper plant have both green and ripening fruits on it.  I have been freezing extras off both for around a month now.  Peppers a Plenty in September

I am getting enough pimentos to freeze for the Pasta House salad we love to make, and eat.  The cayennes I use to make hot sauce and in salsa.

For peppers, if you want to maximize the harvest, pick them as soon as they get to full size and are green versus letting them fully ripen to red, yellow, or orange on the plant.  This stimulates the plant to produce more.  If you let them fully ripen on the plant, the taste will be sweeter but the harvest less.  I compromise and take them off just when they start to turn.  They complete ripening on the counter in a few days.

My Baby Bubba dwarf okra plants have really gotten going in the last couple of weeks.  They are only about 3 feet tall but are quite bushy.  They keep putting on more side shoots that then flower and fruit.  Looks like they are going to finish into fall strong.

Basil in front, okra to left, cock's comb on right, zinnias in background
I had 3 cucumber plants.  All have been doing very well.  I get about 4 cucumbers from them daily. They are so crunchy and flavorful right off the vine!  Any extras go into pickles.  Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix

I am transplanting lettuce plants from the small tray self watering pots into the Earthbox planters and into the garden.  We keep them well moist so they sprout and grow quickly.  Spinach will be next. 

I had also let the greens in the Earthbox reseed themselves over the summer and there are little lettuce, chard, cultivated dandelions, sprouting broccoli and arugula growing.  We will cover the Earthboxes with a small portable green house later this fall so we can have salads throughout the winter.  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter

Make sure you save the seeds from your best and longest producers to plant in your garden next spring.  I also save seeds from organic produce I get from the store that is really good.  Some of my favorite tomato plants have come from seed saved from store bought tomatoes.  Look for heirlooms as they will come back like their parent from seed.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Tomato, horseradish, marigolds, morning glory and zinnias
This fall, we will have arugula, mustard greens, lettuce, chard, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, French and Italian dandelion, spinach, lettuce, purslane, corn salad, celery, chives, parsley, arugula, and sprouting broccoli for salads.  Peppers, eggplant and tomatoes will produce until the first freeze.  The Egyptian onions will produce all through winter.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Plant lettuce seed now for fall and winter eating

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Plant a variety of lettuce types now via seeds for harvests through fall and winter!  Lettuce enjoys cool temperatures and gets even sweeter as the temps dip.

The challenge to starting lettuce from seed this time of year is that it can be so hot.  The seeds will not germinate well in ground temps above 70 degrees F.  There are a couple of options for summer time seeding.  You can grow in shade, cover with a shade cloth or start your seedlings indoors move outdoors after they have sprouted.  Outdoor seed starting tips
I like to start in flats in the shade, close to the watering can on the east side of the house.  On a covered patio, porch or deck is an ideal place to start seeds.  The seedlings will be up in 7 days if kept well watered.  I let them grow until they have the first set of true leaves and are about 2” tall.  I then transplant them into their permanent home, keeping them well watered for another couple of weeks.  The trick this time of year to planting is getting the plants close to full size by November when daylight hours are too short to support growing.

You can just plant a couple of seeds in re-used 6 packs so you can plant it all in the garden, plant several in a pot and then just transplant into the garden or final pot.  My personal favorite is sowing seeds into my self-watering Earthboxes that I cover later in the season with a portable greenhouse to keep the greens going all winter.  How to extend the garden season

If you want to direct seed in your flower bed, dig a shallow trench about a half inch deep, fill with potting soil, seed, pat down, then cover lightly with more potting soil.  Water well with a gentle stream of water so you don’t wash the seed away.  I use a rain head on my watering can.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

Plant a few seeds each day for the next couple of weeks to get a succession of plants for on-going harvests.  This time of year, look for types that are the most cold hardy to last the longest into winter.  Look for varieties marketed as: fast-maturing, short and compact, winter-hardy, frost tolerant, overwintering, for every season, year-round, remarkably cold hardy, etc.  

A few varieties to try are Winter density, Rouge d’Hiver, No Name Red Leaf, Arctic King, Continuity, Salad Bowl, Mottistone.

Don't forget to look around your yard and garden for volunteer lettuce plant seedlings.  I let my lettuce plants go to seed in the summer.  There are many seedlings that will come up in the garden and yard.  I just dig them up and put them where I want them to grow for the fall and winter.  If it is still super hot, move them to a pot in a cool area in the garden or on a deck until it cools down.  Transplant them into the garden when it cools off.

There are some nurseries and even big box stores that carry edible transplants for fall planting.  There are many on-line seed companies that sell fall transplants, too.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Companion planting

Lettuce planted with companion cucumber and strawberries
Sunday, September 6, 2020

Most have heard of the 3 Sisters-corn, beans and squash planted together.  This is an example of companion planting-planting veggies together that help each other out.  Plants can give off chemicals, create usable nitrogen, have scents, suck nutrients or bring nutrients to the surface that can be either beneficial or detrimental to those planted near them.

In the example of the three sisters, the beans provide nitrogen in its roots for the nitrogen needy corn, the corn provides the trellis for the beans, and the squash shades the ground, smothering out weeds and keeping moisture in the ground.  The three work together to help each other grow and thrive, providing a symbiotic growing environment.  

For small gardens that cannot do the traditional crop rotation, companion planting is even more important to the long term health of the garden.  

Here is a list of companions for the veggies I plant with a link on how to grow:
*Alliums (onions and garlic)-potatoes, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, brassicas, summer savory, chamomile
Everything to know about growing onions    Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......
*Beans and peas-carrots, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, corn, cucumbers and brassicas.
Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer
*Beets-lettuce, onions, cabbage  
All about beautiful beets
*Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage)-beans, carrots, lettuce, onions, spinach, most herbs.
How to grow broccoli and cauliflower      Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow
*Chard-lettuce, onions, cabbage  
For year round steamed greens, grow chard!
*Cucumber-beans, nasturtiums, leeks, onions, peas, radishes, sunflowers  
Cucumber info and tips for growing
*Lettuce-radishes, strawberries, and cucumbers  
Everything you need to know about growing lettuce 
*Potatoes-onions, corn, lettuce, beans, brassicas
Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio
*Tomatoes-asparagus, basil, carrots, celery, chives, garlic, onions, parsley, nasturtiums, marigolds
*Squash-icicle radishes, nasturtiums
The wonderful world of squash

Just plant the companions next to each other to help each out.  To get the most from your small space, check out how to do intensive gardening
Get the most from your space-plant intensively!

Another way to look at companion planting is overall health and production of the garden.  There are pest repelling plants and plants that attract pollinators.  Basil can repel whitefly that love tomatoes.  Peppermint can repel mice (keep it in pots as it is invasive).  Alliums can avert carrot flies from carrots and slugs.  Insect control through plants  Deer don't like strong smells since they navigate by smell.  Surround your garden with strongly fragrant plants like herbs and marigolds.

Don't forget the flowers that attract pollinators to the garden.  For fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and squash, pollinators are needed for the plant to produce fruits.  Having flowers throughout your garden attracts pollinators and even other beneficial insects that kill the bad bugs.  You get a two for one with flowers.
Flowers that are edible    Decorative container gardening for edibles