Old King Cole

Saturday, March 10th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Asparagus will provide you with delicious, low-priced spears for years to come if you plant them now from dormant crowns.
    • Raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, and boysenberry vines should be planted now for delicious, home-grown berries.
    • Prune Hydrangeas now by removing old flower heads down to the first new leaves. Don’t prune stems which have no old flowers, and they will bloom first this summer.
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Potatoes can be planted this month. Plant red, white, yellow and russet for a variety of uses and flavors.

Old King Cole

Cole is the old English word for cabbage, and if you measure this vegetable’s popularity by the mass consumption of cole slaw, cabbage deserves the status of Old King Cole. Since cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards and others are closely related to cabbage, they are known collectively as Cole Crops.

Two of the most popular cole crops are broccoli and cabbage. Increased interest in healthful foods has made broccoli a regular part of most American diets. And cabbage is one of our most versatile vegetables.

Many types of broccoli can be harvested for 4 to 6 weeks. They produce large heads, which are harvested first, and then many sideshoots which prolong the harvest. Broccoli should be harvested while the buds are blue-green in color and are tightly compressed.

Broccoli is a heavy feeder, so prepare the soil with compost, well-rotted manure or a balanced fertilizer before planting. Space plants 18 inches apart. Set the young plants 1″-2″ deeper then they grew in the pots. Remove weeds around young plants, and keep plants well watered during dry spells.

Cabbages are grown around the world and there are many different kinds to try, from the delicate, loose-leaf Savoy of France to the spicy mustard cabbage of China. Cabbage has a better texture and flavor when grown in enriched soil.

Early cabbages mature in about 60 days from transplanting. Early Jersey Wakefield is a top choice for thin leaves and sweet heads, and Copenhagen Market is also early with 3- to 4-pound heads.

Mid-season varieties hold well in the garden without splitting. Red Acre is an excellent red cabbage. Heads are deep red, globe shaped, 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and they make a colorful addition to the garden landscape.

Savoy cabbages are mid- to late-season producing. They have very tender, crinkled, mild-tasting leaves on a loose head. Their flexible leaves are good for cabbage rolls.

Late cabbage has very tight heads making it especially easy to prepare coleslaw or sauerkraut. They tolerate night temperatures in the 20s, so they’re good for winter gardens.

Cabbage isn’t difficult to grow, and the big payoff is flavor: homegrown crops taste sweeter than those sold in markets. Cabbage is undaunted by frost, and hardy kinds can withstand snow.

Other cole crops include Brussels sprouts and Chinese cabbage, which grow best as a fall crops, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard, mizuna, kohlrabi and turnips. All like to grow in cool weather, so the time to plant them is now.

Fall Vegetable Gardening

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Japanese maples may be pruned now in order to shape them.
    • Mottled leaves are often a sign of spider mites. Check for them with a hand lens or bring a leaf to your nursery in a plastic bag for identification and treatment options.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with 0-10-10 fertilizer to encourage flowers for next spring.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus.
    • Roses have more flowers all summer long than any other shrub. Plant them in a sunny location and feed monthly for continuous blooms.

Best Vegetables for Fall Growing

When the days grow shorter and the night air has that crisp chill of fall, it’s nice to be able to walk out to the garden and harvest a bunch of fresh broccoli, or a head of cabbage or lettuce. But to make this happen in Willits, you need to start planting the fall garden now, in the middle of summer.

We have a short growing season here, and when fall arrives, it is too late to start planting since cold weather generally comes on rapidly in November. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower take 60 to 90 days to mature from transplant size, so it’s important to set plants out soon. They will grow vigorously in the warm summer weather. Then, when they begin to head up, the weather will be cooling down so that they can develop properly.

Though many of the same crops are planted for the fall as for the spring garden, fall vegetables will hold for harvest much longer without bolting to seed. Many crops, like Oriental greens, radicchio, leeks, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and kale will actually get sweeter when touched by light frosts.

Transplant seedlings into well-prepared moist soil in the evening, so they have the cool night temperatures to settle in and minimize shock. In hot weather it is best to shelter newly transplanted seedlings for a few days with shade cloth or row covers.

You can start seeds of leaf lettuce, bok choy, spinach, Swiss chard and roquette or arugula now. These are fast-maturing crops that will be ready before frost. Although most seeds will germinate quickly in the warm summer soil, some, such as lettuce and spinach, will not germinate well if the soil temperature is above 85°F. Shading the soil with a board or a light mulch will keep the soil cooler, enhancing germination. Remove the temporary shade when you see sprouts emerging.

There are many kinds of lettuce to choose from on seed racks that will give you color and variety in your salads. Swiss chard comes in green, red or “rainbow”, a mixture of colored stalks.

Root crops, such as beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips, can be left in the ground through the fall. Green onions and radishes can also be planted for harvest in the fall.

It is important to rotate your crops from year to year. Do not plant the same crops in the same place that they were planted in the previous year because the soil will be weakened through continual loss of the same nutrients and the plants will also attract the same insects and diseases to that part of the garden.

A major benefit of a fall garden is that it gives you fresh vegetables long after most of your summer crops have been harvested and killed by the frost. So start your fall garden now to extend the productivity of your garden.

Get Ready to Garden!

Friday, March 5th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Peach and plum trees are still available as bare-root trees, but only for a short while longer. Start your orchard now!
    • Pansies and violas will fill your spring flower beds with their bright faces in many shades of blue, yellow, red, pink and purple.
    • Deciduous Clematis vines can be cut back to about waist height, to encourage bushiness, more flowers and a nicer looking vine. Do this in late winter before the new growth starts.
    • Fragrant daphne bushes perfume the air this month. Find a place for this attractive, evergreen shrub.
    • Prune wisteria trees and vines by cutting out unwanted long runners and removing old seed pods. Don’t damage flower buds that are clustered at the end of short branches.

Get Ready to Garden!

After a long, wet winter, spring is in the air and it’s time to get out in the garden once again. It’s hard to beat the fresh flavor and high nutritional value of vegetables harvested directly from your own garden.

A good vegetable garden must have at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Eight to 10 hours a day is ideal. No amount of fertilizer, water, or care can replace needed sunshine. If you are limited for space or do not have a bright, sunny spot in the yard, then you can grow some vegetables in containers on a sunny patio or deck. Leaf-crops are about the only thing that will grow in limited sun.

March is the month when gardeners become eager to start planting. You can dig up and work your soil as soon as it is dry enough. When you turn your soil, add 1 to 2 inches of organic matter or compost, and mix it in as you dig the bed 8-12 inches deep.

The first things to go into the garden are perennial crops, like asparagus and strawberries. These plants are available at very reasonable prices during the “bare-root” season, when you can buy them without containers. This is very economical, and environmentally friendly as well.

Cool season plants like broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach can be set out now from young starts. They grow best in cool weather and can take a light frost. Onions can also be planted early from young, growing plants.

When the soil warms up a bit, you can sow beet and carrot seeds directly into the soil. Spinach, however, will germinate best at 50°F soil temperature, so you can plant it any time. Peas should be sprouted inside and then planted out. They are likely to rot in the cold soil if planted directly right now.

Later this month, it will be time to plant potatoes. Seed potatoes are available now and savvy gardeners are choosing from over a dozen varieties. Be sure to pick some up while the selection is still good.

It is a good idea to keep a garden diary. Draw a map of your garden layout, since you will want to rotate plantings in next year’s garden. Record the vegetable planting dates, noting the varieties that you planted. Keep notes about weather and any problems that occur, and record harvest dates and some idea of quantities harvested. All of this information will help you improve your garden from year to year.

It’s time to get ready to garden!