October 8th, 2013
Megaturnip

debbie_tnI just have to report about the ‘Jaune Boule d’Or’ turnip I pulled out of the ground yesterday—that’s it in the photo below. Look how big it is! It was sown in early spring and kept growing as in-between ones got harvested. Still a few left. Only a few worms, and not woody at all.

Jaune turnipI also pulled up a giant ‘Yaya’ carrot last week—I wish I had gotten a picture! It was about 5 inches long and 2 inches in diameter in lousy carrot-growing soil, also planted in early spring. It was crunchy and sweet, and like the late turnips it was not woody at all. Some went into a stew, but most was eaten fresh. I’m really impressed with this variety. They seem better in my garden when growing longer. At what seems a more normal time to harvest them, they’re still quite small, probably due to the poor carrot-growing soil. I’ve never grown good carrots for fresh eating, so ‘Yaya’ is a keeper.

No tomato-tasting party this year. With a busy late summer, the timing just didn’t work out. Now the fall rains are here early, the dumping variety that usually comes a month or so later. Summer came early for us—warm and dry—but apparently fall is here early, too.  —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington

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July 3rd, 2013
Too much rain …

linda_tn … and more in the forecast. When you grow food for a living and the weather is this bad, it sort of throws you.

We had so much spring rain here in Ontario that many things struggled, although it is a little better now. I have had to re-seed lots of crops that succumbed.

Among the varieties I’m trialing for Organic Gardening, the tomatoes, peppers, basil, ground cherries, zinnias, brassicas, and beans are okay. The okra and sweet corn are struggling, and the carrots got washed out. I have had lots of pest problems, particularly flea beetles and leaf miners, but I can’t figure out where the cucumber beetles and squash bugs are. Happy days! All the melons and squash are good too.

The weird weather this year is really making me rethink how I run my business. My CSA started up 3 weeks ago, but some things that should be in the shares now, like beets and spinach, succumbed. The extremes have been too extreme: hot and dry, then cold and wet, then hot and wet. Crops in my hoop houses are thriving—maybe in the future I need to take greater advantage of these spaces where the extremes of weather aren’t as big an issue. It’s a drag to work hard and see things go belly-up. I’m sure you know what I mean.  —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario

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June 24th, 2013
Corn: Sweet and Pop

leslie_d_tnThe weather here has been normal for Las Vegas—lucky us!—unlike other parts of the country. ‘Japanese Hulless’ popcorn (top photo, below) is 7 feet tall in my garden. One of the stalks has three ears on it, the rest have one or two ears. It is probably about 15 days away from harvest (it just started to silk). We had high winds through here and some of it blew over.

popcorn1popcorn2‘On Deck’ (lower photo), the new dwarf sweet corn from Burpee, is 6 feet tall in my garden. I thought that by starting two different corn varieties three weeks apart I wouldn’t have a problem with cross pollination. However, I have pollen on both. Hmmm—does sweet corn cross with popcorn?

The little corn plants in flats in six-pack pots on the table will be planted this weekend in the front yard. This variety is ‘Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored’ popcorn, which was a previous Organic Gardening test variety and I loved it. I have been growing it every year and sharing popcorn with friends. A curious thing is that they don’t pop it because it is not packaged for the microwave and they don’t know how to pop corn on the stove (or over a fire). So I have to pop it and give it to them in bags, ready to eat. My friends are popcorn cripples! This stuns me.  —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada

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March 29th, 2013
March Slides Out Like a Slug

slugLook who came for a visit on a blustery day with pouring-down rain interspersed with moments of glorious blue sky. No worries—it’s a banana slug, a Pacific Northwest native that doesn’t do as much damage to gardens as the non-native dark-colored ones. It apparently doesn’t like having its photograph taken. —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington

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March 19th, 2013
Sowing the Seeds of Spring

linda_tnI opened my hoop house doors at noon today and knew immediately I should have done it a bit earlier in the day. It has been a gorgeous late-winter day. There’s still the nip of winter in the air, but the sun has a spring warmth to it. As I pried open the door, a gush of steam greeted me as the warm air in the hoop house collided with the cool outside air. I had to wait a while before I could head in to pick—it was that hot.

In the hoop house, winter greens are beginning to bolt.

In the hoop house, winter greens are beginning to bolt.

The work of winter and spring are colliding just like that warm and cold air. I’m still harvesting nice winter greens to sell, although many of the plants are doing what they need to do to keep their species in existence: The seed stalks are shooting up. Some mustards and arugulas have flowers, and there are some small (and tasty!) seed heads.

My leeks and onions have been in for a while now, and I have some lovely baby green onion tops to add to my favorite dishes. Onions, when growing from seed, need a regular “haircut” to keep their tops at 1 to 2 inches. This directs the plants’ energy back to the roots, helping the onions size up nicely. I’ll direct seed my favorite onion—the fabulous ‘Long Red Florence’—right in the garden as well, so I can harvest early, from transplants, and late, from seed.

‘Long Red Florence’ onions

‘Long Red Florence’ onions

I also have some herbs growing along nicely. Oregano, parlsey, thyme, sorrel, plus a few oddities. There’s my cultivated apple seed from Germany and an early-maturing type of cotton that I hope produces the most wonderful fluffy cotton balls ever on my Wellandport plantation. One must try these things. Or at least I must.

I love having one of my grow-light stands in the kitchen, right near the woodstove. Two weeks ago I seeded all my eggplants, early brassicas, and lettuces for transplanting into the garden in April. Amazingly enough, a mere 24 hours later, some of the kale varieties were up. With the woodstove kicking out heat, those little kale seeds decided to pop. Miraculous.

A dense crop of ‘Stupice’ tomato seedlings awaits transplant.

A dense crop of ‘Stupice’ tomato seedlings awaits transplant.

Then there’s my favorite early tomato, ‘Stupice’. I have a 4-inch pot that must have 200 or so little baby ‘Stupice’ sprouts in it. These will be my June tomatoes, I hope. I’ll get them planted in my hoop house in April. Then, with a bit of luck and some row cover fabric thrown over them for extra protection, I should have ripe tomatoes 55 or so days later. Those first tomatoes are always the best!

As for the peppers, hot and sweet, they will all go in tomorrow. I’ll soak the super-hots, like ‘Scorpion’ and ‘Carolina Reaper’, for a better germination rate. I wish I’d planted them a little bit earlier, but I’ll get that fire rolling in the kitchen and hopefully they’ll jump up quickly. I just hope the weather stays cool so I need and want the fire. If you come to visit and I’m wearing my bathing suit, you’ll know why—I’m just trying to get those hot peppers going!

It’s so wonderful to see all these things sprouting and growing. Great also to feel the warmth of the sun and to dream about what this year’s garden can do. I never get tired of it because it is different every year. My gardens…my blank canvases await! —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario

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