The Spring Vegetable Garden

Friday, March 10th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Spring vegetables can be planted now from nursery starts. Begin your garden with broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, chard and onions. It pays to grow your own!
    • Potatoes can be planted this month. Plant red, white, yellow, blue and russet for a variety of uses and flavors.
    • Raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, and boysenberry vines should be planted now for delicious, home-grown berries.
    • 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.
    • Fruit trees are still available as bare-root trees, but only for a short while longer. Start your orchard now!

The Spring Vegetable Garden

A few lovely, warm spring days finally give us the chance to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. And what better way to enjoy it than to set out some spring vegetable plants in your garden or raised beds. The warm days and chilly nights that we get this time of year are perfect for many delicious vegetables.

You can now set out seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, onions, chard, sugar snap peas and lettuce. From seed you can start beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, peas and spinach.

Cabbage and broccoli are members of the cole family. “Cole” is the Old English word for cabbage and is the name given to a group of vegetables that share a common ancestry and a family preference for cool weather. Other garden relatives include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, collards, turnips, radishes, bok choy and baby bok choy.

Seeing these plants side by side, you might find it hard to see what cabbages have in common with kohlrabi or broccoli. But the diverse appearance of cole family members comes from a single remarkable family trait — the ability to thicken various plant parts. Thus the kohlrabi has thickened stems; broccoli has thickened immature flowering branches; turnips and radishes have thickened roots; and with cabbage, the thickening forms the heads.

Lettuce also needs cool weather to be at its best. There are many different kinds of lettuce: looseleaf has tender, delicate, and mildly flavoured leaves; butterheads, also called Boston or buttercrunch, form loose heads; romaine, also called cos, grows in a long head of sturdy leaves and crispheads, also called iceberg, forms tight, dense heads. Leaves come in various shades of red and green. You can set out plants and plant seeds at the same time to have successive crops this spring.

Root crops grow well in the spring also. Carrots are easy to start in the cool, spring weather. Carrot seeds are tiny and germinate best in damp soil when the soil temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees. Beets, onions, radishes and turnips all grow very rapidly in the spring.

Peas are perhaps the most popular spring vegetable. There’s nothing quite so sweet and delicious as fresh garden peas. Dwarf varieties grow 18 to 24 inches tall and stand best with some support. The tall varieties grow 6 to 8 feet high and need poles or string, or wire trellises to climb. You can grow shelling peas or edible-pod varieties, also known as sugar peas, or the flat edible-pod varieties known as snow peas, popular in Asian cooking.

Take advantage of this nice spring weather and start your vegetable garden producing now.

Fresh Vegetables from the Fall Garden

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums come in bright fall colors to give you instant color in flower beds and containers.
    • Divide Astilbe and Oriental poppies now. Replant healthy roots and add some bonemeal in the bottom of the hole when you replant.
    • Pansies and snapdragons can be planted now to replace summer annuals. They will give you color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • When lily flowers fade, remove the flowers but don’t cut back the stems until leaves have yellowed in the fall.
    • If your bearded iris blooms were sparse this year or the plants are more than four years old, now is the time to divide and replant them. Mix some bone meal into the soil, and plant the rhizomes just beneath the soil surface.

Fresh Vegetables from the Fall Garden

September is a great month to spend some time in the garden. Mornings and evenings are cooler and a delightful time to harvest the summer crops and set out some new plants for fall vegetables.

Broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, kales and collards can be planted now. And so can spinach, Swiss chard and Asian greens.

Try growing some Chinese cabbages now. Although related to cabbage, they don’t taste much like cabbage. They are more sweetly flavored, with large, crisp, lettuce-like leaves. They are used in salads, sautéed, or pickled in Kimchi.

Pak choy is a popular Asian vegetable which belongs to the loose-leaf cabbage family and resembles Swiss chard. It develops large, glossy dark green leaves with wide white celery-like midribs. It is tender and delicious either cooked or quick fried in oil. It is used extensively in Chinese restaurants in Chow Mein, Chop Suey and soups.

Baby Bok Choy has become the most used vegetables in various Asian dishes due to its excellent flavor, texture and size. This fast-growing vegetable can be ready for harvest in 3-4 weeks. Young leaves and petioles are very tender and crisp, and they are good for stir-fry cooking.

There are many other interesting Asian greens. Nappa cabbage, or Wong Bok, makes large, cylindrical tight heads with broad round smooth leaves. It is very tender with a mild flavor. Tatsoi is a loose-headed variety similar to Pak choy with a large, bulbous celery-like base. It produces well into winter. Mizuna is a Japanese non-heading leaf type with narrow, dark-green, feathery leaves. It is very decorative in salads and popular in stir-fry.

You can also plant turnips now. Plant seeds up to 50 days before your first fall frost. Purple Top White Globe is an old-fashioned variety that will also give you tasty greens through the winter months.

Many types of lettuce will grow well now. They prefer the cooler weather of fall to the heat of summer, so they will make nice heads for you in the weeks to come.

Leave room for garlic! Sets will be available later in September. By planting them in the fall, you will be harvesting fresh garlic next June.

Onions can also be planted now. Green onions can be harvested in 3-4 weeks by pulling up the entire plant or just by cutting the green leaves off with a pair of scissors, leaving an inch or two of growth so the onion can continue growing. Larger varieties will grow through the winter and produce big bulbs next spring.

This is also a good time to set out artichoke and rhubarb plants. They will grow vigorously in the cooler weather and be ready to produce next spring.

Make the most of cooler days in your garden. By setting out new plants now, you will extend your harvest season into November.

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.