September 21, 2012
There’s still have time to plant some cool season crops in the PacNW for your fall vegetable garden. But do it fast or your window will close soon. September is winding down fast afterall.
Not sure what will work?
There’s no guarantee with any seed, but if you want to give some a try, consider these:
- Radish: direct sow and keep those seeds and seedlings consistently moist. The faster they come to harvest, the better they’ll be. More info here.
- Lettuce: direct sow or sow in start trays to thin later.
- Spinach: direct sow and keep moist
- Snow & Snap peas: Have some seed leftover? Roll the dice. Depending on how fall goes, you may get a late harvest — or at least some pea greens to toss into a salad. More info here.
If your planting beds need a rest, get out there and sow your cover crops now. Most nurseries and seed vendors offer selections of seed to work well in your location and replenish your beds over the winter.
If seeds aren’t your thing, be on the lookout at nurseries for chard, kale, leeks and other pre-started crops to pop into your winter beds.
And, don’t forget to order your garlic seed soon. October is the month to get that planted and vendors are shipping seed now!
July 10, 2012
Have I ever sung the praises of humble lettuce here? I’ve probably overlooked it despite how much it contributes to our diet and our garden. So, today’s the day!
From the soft, tender crunchy leaves of Buttercrunch, which we grow from seed all season long, to the deeply cut, crinkled rusty leaves of red oak leaf and mysterious, speckled varieties that I bought as starts to “fluff up” the garden before our recent tour, let me remind you that lettuce is a must-have in any garden!
It adds seasonal color and foliage to the garden. It grows well in dappled sunlight and even deeper shade in warmer climates. It germinates rapidly and continues to mature to luscious heads quickly.
It may be harvested by thinning out young seedlings from thickly sown patches to create microgreen goodness. Removing a few outer leaves from each of several young plants creates a baby greens salad quickly. And, when an entire head is sliced at ground level and the root is left behind, a new head of lettuce will likely form from that same root.
True, lettuce is a cool season crop. But, here in the Pacific Northwest, that means it grows well from late winter until the first freezes of fall. And, with a passive protection system like an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, you may be able to grow it even when the freezes hit. If a head or two begins to bolt during the heat of summer, that leafy goodness is great fodder for the compost pile or pecking for chickens. Just re-seed every week or two to ensure a continual harvest.
On the warmer days, get out in the garden early to harvest your salad greens. Dunk them into a sink filled with chilly water. Swoosh it around and then let the garden grit fall to the bottom of the sink. Gently lift the washed greens, place them in a salad spinner, give it a whirl and then put the whole thing in the fridge to chill during the day. Come evening, even greens that were slightly wilty when picked will be perky and perfect for the table.
At our house, we’ve had some health changes that mean we’re eating more green salads than ever before. Some are kale. Others are chard and spinach. Many are cabbage. But, most of all, the basic leafy green dinner salad in our home contains loads of lovely lettuces.
Consider some of our favorite veggie mixes in a rich, nutritious seasonal salad tonight. Something similar to this one will be on our table. How about yours?
- Mixed lettuces, harvested at dawn
- peeled and sliced cucumber, harvested early & chilled
- 6-8 sugar snap peas, string removed and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
- freshly pulled & scrubbed carrots shaved with a peeler
- fresh, raw baby beets, peeled and sliced thin
- a few tablespoons of raw sunflower seeds
- a few shavings of Romano cheese
- a handful of roasted, chopped cashew nuts
- a few pansy petals, borage blossoms or other edible flowers
- Tossed with a tiny amount of homemade vinaigrette
March 07, 2012
If you’re starting seeds in a greenhouse planting tray & lid, be sure you know when to keep the lid on and when to take it off. (I’ve provided a photographic timeline later in this post, so skip ahead if pictures are better for you than words.) Lids help keep in moisture and heat, which is a good thing for germinating seeds. Lids can also intensify light on the soil, which is also a good thing for helping warm the soil. But too much of a good thing can be bad.
Once the seeds germinate and send shoots above the soil, its time to begin opening the lid a bit to ventilate. This helps some of the accumulating moisture evaporate, so be sure to check the soil often in case it needs watering. And, getting that bit of ventilation going will also help keep down fungal disease; even the smallest bit of airflow can make all the difference.
Then, once the seedlings begin to get a little height, be sure to remove the lid completely. This will give the young plants room to grow upwards. Ventilation will also be increased. And, shortly, you’ll be potting the young plants into bigger containers or moving them out into the garden.
Following is a visual guide through the various steps I find work really well: (more…)
February 20, 2012
If you haven’t started already, now’s the time to start your vegetable garden. It is also time to be wrapping up any dormant pruning of your edible trees, shrubs and vines. (Think: blueberries, raspberries, apples, pears & the like.)
Buds are beginning to swell and break open. Seeds – including self-seeded weeds – are beginning to emerge from the soil. Birds are beginning to migrate and nest. And, slowly but surely, days are getting longer. And when we’re really lucky, those days are even feeling slightly warmer than just a few weeks ago.
In my own garden, I began seeds for plants like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, watercress, fava beans, snap peas, mizuna, beets and chard several weeks ago when we had that sunny run of 60F days. I have an unheated greenhouse where they germinated rapidly. In a few days, I’ll be moving several of these from overcrowded sterile mix containers to individual pots where they can grow on a bit more before moving to the garden.
As in years past, this past weekend, I even seeded a few warm season crops (think tomato) in the greenhouse. If they take off, bully for me. If they don’t, I can try again indoors under lights in a few weeks and still have plenty of time to bring them to fruition later this summer. (I also started carrots, chinese cabbage and some flower seeds this past weekend.)
So, if you’ve got onions to place, seeds to sow, soil to test, berries to prune or weeds to pull, there’s no time like this very moment to get out there and get started. Even if your soil is frozen, sowing seeds now indoors or in a protected outdoor spot, will mean your garden will be well on its way by the time the Spring thaw comes. Find ideas for inexpensive season extenders here.
Thinking you need help planning, designing or installing your garden? Pretty sure you need a lesson in how to prune those fruit trees, shrubs and canes properly so you don’t kill them in the process?
Don’t keep waiting. Get in touch now to get your project scheduled and your education underway. If you wait until Spring to reach out for help, you’ll be waiting much longer to get your garden growing!
June 28, 2011
I can’t believe we’re just days away from the 4th of July. The weather and the garden haven’t really prepared me for the fact that summer really is here. It’s been all leafy greens — up until today.
Yep! Finally, snow peas, sugar snap peas and even a few strawberries were ready to harvest this morning. In most years, all of these crops would be on the wane — or at least mid-way through their big harvest period.
This year, not so much.
We’ve been trying to stay happy with lots of salads filled with kale, lettuce and chard. But as much as we love these nutritious, generous foods, they do get tiresome after a while.
If your crops are lagging, don’t despair. The salad days of our never-ending cool, wet spring are nearly over. Other slow growing yummies will start rolling in soon, and you’ll probably end up with a huge harvest rush when they do. Keep a close eye on early berries and peas. If you don’t snatch them up, wildlife will. And, the more you pick, the more the plants will continue to produce for you!
Savor all the sugary sweet goodness that comes with early summer harvests from spring-bearing plants that have enjoyed loads and loads of fresh water from the sky — not the hose!
Oh, and try not to squeal too loudly as you find these goodies in the garden. All that dependable kale, lettuce and chard you’ve been enjoying for months now might hear you, feel a bit insulted and decide to bolt. Then you’ll really be sorry (or not).
June 10, 2011
I write a lot about using floating row cover (aka horticultural fleece) and hoop houses to protect crops. Yesterday, I noticed that some of the floating fleece was getting a bit taut over a rising crop, so I took a couple peeks under the hood to see what was going on.
Turns out, over the past week our beautiful Neon Glow Chard, sent to Garden Mentors courtesy of Renee’s Garden Seeds, is looking fantastic. Actually, it’s time for us to start harvesting the outer leaves to eat &/or to share with the local food bank.
Nearby this well protected crop, I’ve installed another patch of the same chard. This other patch has no fleece protection. When it gets hit with leaf miner later this season — and don’t worry, it’ll happen — I’ll snap shots to show you what a difference a little row cover can make!
And, while I had the camera out, I grabbed a shot under the tomato hoop house to share. This area was planted just a week ago, so everything is still small and young, but so far it’s all doing fantastic. I just wish today’s 50F drizzle would go away so the sun could come out to power these babies up for the season!
Oh, and did I mention? I planted 8 more golden nugget cherry tomatoes yesterday. They aren’t protected or hooped to retain heat. I sure hope they continue to grow happily despite our chilly, soggy summer weather!
**note: Renee’s Seed was sent to us for free. This article has been written without any compensation other than a free packet of seeds to try growing.