Archive for the 'Vegetables' Category

Cool Season Crops

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On March 1st of this year, I planted sugar snap pea seeds in one of our raised beds next to a wire trellis. All of the seeds sprouted within a week or two and grew rapidly after that. The pea vines are now over 6 feet tall (taller than the trellis) and are still growing. There are so many vines (I planted too many seeds) that wind blew them forward off the trellis a few weeks ago. I tied them back onto the trellis with string. I planted three rows of seeds at about a 3 inch spacing. Next time, I will plant only two rows of seeds spaced farther apart.

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I am growing peas on the same trellis as blue lake green beans, which I have been growing for years. When I have planted green beans along the entire 6 foot long trellis in the past, the plants produced way too many beans to eat. So this year I planted half as many beans and planted peas next to the beans. The peas are out growing the beans and starting to crowd them.

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Our peas are now full of pods. I just began picking them last week. This is the first time I have grown peas, and I am wondering why I didn’t before. They are easy to grow, produce lots of sweet edible pea pods early in the growing season, and are good sources of vitamins A and K and especially vitamin C.

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Our broccoli plants are large this year. I grew them by seed rather than buying nursery transplants, as I mentioned in a previous post. I have watered them regularly and applied water soluble fertilizer to them about once a week, which seems to have made a difference. Although right now, the plants are growing together and crowding each other out, which is probably limiting the size of the plants and the crowns. Next time, I may space them farther apart. 12 inches apart is not quite enough for maximum growth. Planting of broccoli seeds at just the right time is critical to getting large crowns. I think I got the timing right. Although, we’ve had two heat waves this month into the low 90s F, which is not ideal for broccoli growth. Our broccoli plants are forming crowns now. I just harvested the first crown today. These crowns in the lower photo look nearly ready to cut.

I also covered our broccoli plants with two layers of bird netting which helped to keep the snails away (they get stuck in it) and these white moths that want to lay larvae (worms) on the broccoli. The moths also can’t get through the netting.

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I have had mixed results with potatoes this year. I planted russet and yukon gold potatoes in Feb. and March. I have been planting potatoes in the same raised bed for years. Those potato plants (above photo) have not grown nearly as much as the potato plants that are growing in a different raised bed (below photo with corn in the back) where I had never planted potatoes until this year. It seems to be an example of the importance of rotating crops from year to year.

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I sowed the corn seeds in mid-March, which is the earliest I have ever planted it. I sowed Peaches and Cream corn seeds, which is my favorite variety for taste. The seeds sprouted and grew about as quickly as in past years when I had always sowed the seeds in April. I am expecting to harvest corn by July 1, and then rip out these plants for a second planting of corn seeds to be harvested in late October. Home grown corn is so good, one harvest a year just isn’t enough!

May 21 2014 | Broccoli and Corn and Peas and Potatoes | 1 Comment »

Broccoli By Seed

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I planted broccoli seeds in peat pots the last week of February this year. I germinated them in our new portable greenhouse. I transplanted the seedlings into raised beds a few weeks later. The first picture above was taken in late March after I transplanted the seedlings. They have now grown into plants that are over a foot tall. The second picture of the same plants was taken a week ago. There is still no sign of any crowns developing yet. Although, I except them to develop crowns by the end of May. Hopefully, the plants will be big enough by then to support large broccoli crowns.

An important point regarding growing broccoli is timing the plantings so that most of the plants’ growth occurs when the high temperatures are between about 62 and 75 degrees F, which is their ideal temperature range. You have to have a good idea of the average spring temperatures in your area and time the plantings appropriately. This is the first time I have planted broccoli by seed. Previously, I planted transplants that I bought from a local nursery, which were typically available mid to late March. Those previously broccoli plantings developed crowns in late May and early June. I based my timing of planting the seeds in late Feb. to try to duplicate this timing. I am assuming about 90 days between planting the seeds and harvest time.

May 04 2014 | Broccoli | No Comments »

Spring Vegetables

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The first vegetables I planted for 2013 were two cool weather crops: cabbage (first picture) and broccoli (second picture). I planted transplants that I bought from a nursery in late February, rather than starting them by seed. Most seeds wouldn’t sprout in winter here, because it’s not warm enough. I would have had to start by seed indoors and then transplant the seedlings outdoors in late winter. Buying and planting nursery transplants is easier. No hardening off is required.

One year, I planted broccoli seeds in one of our backyard raised garden beds in July for a fall crop. However, the broccoli wasn’t mature enough by late fall, so it overwintered and matured in February. The broccoli crowns were very small, probably because the temperature was too cool that time of year for ideal growth. Next time, I would plant broccoli seeds outdoors in June for a fall harvest.

Our cabbage is nearly ready to harvest. This is my first time growing cabbage. From what I have read, it can be harvested as soon as a cabbage head forms. It was very easy to grow. I watered two to three times a week and fertilized weekly with water soluble fertilizer. I planted a dwarf variety that matures in about 60 days after setting out transplants. I also put bird netting over them, mainly to keep the snails away. I have found that bird netting is more effective than snail bait, which dissolves in about 2 weeks. I discovered that when I used bird netting to keep the birds away from my strawberries (which are growing around the beds as a border) that snails would get caught in it. They have a hard time crawling through the holes in the netting and usually get stuck in it, so they can’t make it into the beds.

I planted Waltham Broccoli. The Waltham broccoli produced very small crowns in early April, only about an inch or 2 wide (front plants in second picture). I’ve learned that in order to get large crowns, broccoli plants need to grow very large first. If the plants generate crowns when they are still medium size, the crowns will be too small.

I’ve planted broccoli several times before, and I’ve only had success in getting them to produce large crowns once. That time, I planted in mid-March and harvested crowns in early June. Apparently, proper timing of your broccoli plantings is key to success. They were growing in the same bed as the ones in the above photos.

I set out tomato transplants in mid-March. I also planted pole bean seeds and zucchini seeds in the same bed (third picture). All of these are growing well, as are our strawberries around the edges of the beds. I set out tomato transplants that I buy from a nursery rather than staring by seed outdoors to get a head start on the growing season. Each year for the past four years that I have planted tomato transplants in the garden in March, I have had our first ripe tomatoes in early July. I also have tomato seedlings growing in the same bed. They are growing where tomatoes fell off the vine and rotted last year. But these seedlings are tiny compared to the nursery transplants and are getting crowded out by them.

April 20 2013 | Broccoli and Cabbage | No Comments »

Leeks

Last spring, I planted leek seeds for the first time in one of our raised vegetable garden beds. Most of the seeds sprouted within a month. Late last summer, I dug them up and transplanted them to a different raised bed where there was more room for them to grow. They didn’t show any sign of shock after the transplant, as far as I can remember. In any event, they continued to grow through fall, winter, and early spring this year.

Within the past few weeks, they started to “go to seed” (first picture above taken yesterday). That is, they started to grow long stalks with flower buds at the tip, indicating it was harvest time. Yesterday, I pulled them up, and then cut off their roots and leaves (second picture above). They weren’t any where near as large as the leeks I see in grocery stores, but I guess size doesn’t matter if you are just going to slice them. Today, I made potato leek soup for the first time with my home grown leeks. The soup turned out really well. Here is the recipe:

1 Lb. leeks cleaned and sliced
3 potatoes skinned and diced
2.5 TBS butter
3.25 cups chicken broth (may be low sodium)
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 cup half and half
salt to taste

Saute leeks in butter and a pinch of salt for about 20 minutes until soft. Add potatoes, pepper, vermouth, and broth, bring to boil, and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Puree with 1/2 and 1/2. Salt and pepper to taste.

April 22 2012 | Leeks | 1 Comment »

First Asparagus

This spring, I harvested our first asparagus spears. I first planted 5 bare root Mary Washington asparagus near the edge of one of our raised beds 3 years ago. I planted them about 12 inches apart, but they are not near other plants that would crowd or shade them.

I let the asparagus grow without harvesting the spears for the first two seasons, as many publications on asparagus recommend. This year is the first year they have produced more than a few spears that are worthy of eating. I have cut about 15-20 spears in the past month. The spears first starting appearing in our garden in early March. I have let a few spears on each plant grow into ferns so that each plant is able to produce at least some sugar for the roots. I will probably continue to harvest some of the spears for a few more weeks before letting them all grow into ferns.

Once asparagus spears grow into ferns, they can become an annoyance as they often fall over into other plants or in a garden pathway. When they fall over, I usually trim the ferns back to keep them out of the way.

I have never fertilized our asparagus. Because they are growing in a raised bed filled in with compost, I don’t think they need fertilizer, especially because asparagus are long-lived perennials that have many years to grow into maturity. Although, I do water them every few days during our spring-to-fall dry season.

April 20 2012 | Asparagus | 3 Comments »

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