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July 16th, 2012

Summer Vegetables in a Short Growing Season

Now it’s July and time to take a breath …. Since February it has been drier and warmer than average here in Colorado (if there are such things as climate averages in this state). I was a bit late getting my spring crops in, so the pea and lettuce season was short. I fell in love with ‘Mayan Jaguar’ lettuce from Fedco Seeds; it’s pretty with bite-size leaves. Because of the early heat and dry I had to be super-diligent with watering to avoid bitterness. Most growers here cover greens with row cloth but I find it makes lettuces rather tasteless and pale.

The tomatoes are growing well. ‘Pilcer Vesy’ is huge and loaded with fruit. It’s even dwarfing my usually vigorous ‘Pineapple’ and Aussie varieties. My early-season tomatoes are only just now ripening (even with a month head start in Wallo’Waters). The test cherries are also just starting to color. I’ve gone crazy with tomatoes this year and am growing 30+ varieties, so I’ll have plenty to compare the trial varieties to.

Summer squash have just started producing this last week. The summer squash ‘Golden Egg’, from Burpee, is very vigorous but I haven’t tried it yet. All the winter squash are doing well and I am holding out hope for the watermelons and melons. They are growing vigorously and flowering but need to get done by early September. I’m situated in a frost hollow so I seldom have success with melons.

The Brussels sprouts are growing vigorously. I am growing the test variety along with another three varieties. The cauliflower is great but maybe another 2 to 3 weeks off. I’m a cauliflower fan and have some great preserve recipes so I have planted six or so varieties this year. I’ve grown the ‘Purple Peacock’ broccoli before and was unimpressed. It isn’t exciting me much this year either but I’ll keep an open mind for another 2 or 3 weeks.  —Tracey Parrish, Boulder, Colorado

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December 6th, 2011

Late Harvests

john_tnIt appears global warming is at work in the Northeast. As of today, we still haven’t had a heavy frost in southern New England. Usually we have a hard frost by the middle of November. Yesterday I harvested carrots, peanuts, and a really nice broccoli.

broccoliRegular readers of this blog may recall the giant head of ‘Green Goliath’ broccoli I picked last July. The broccoli head shown above is actually a side shoot from that same plant! The head is over 7 inches across—bigger than many main heads. I have been picking broccoli side shoots since August and it looks like I may actually be able to keep picking into 2012.

carrotsAlthough the carrots didn’t get planted until early July and were never fertilized or weeded, I’m pretty happy with them. I planted them under my tomatoes and they really didn’t start to grow until the tomatoes died in September. The variety is ‘Big Top’, an Asian type of carrot. I planted ‘Scarlet Nantes’, a variety we are trialing this year, at the same time but they did not germinate (maybe too hot or dry?).

peanutsThe last photo is of something I have never tried to grow before: peanuts. These were planted very late, in mid-July, but due to the warm fall they produced a small crop. Now I know if I plant them a bit earlier and fertilize I can get a good crop of peanuts.

I still have tons of kale, collard greens, celery, as well as Brussels sprouts in my garden to harvest. I also have to check the celeriac to see if they produced roots. It used to be that after November it was just garden cleanup, but now it seems gardening is a year-round job in New England. —John Lewis, Newport, Rhode Island

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August 8th, 2011

Broccoli in a Northwestern “Summer”

DebbieLeungThe ‘Piracicaba’ broccoli I’m growing in our variety trials is heading up! The one shown below is a bit loose, but it sure made a pretty sight in the garden. Tasted quite yummy, too! Notice the side shoots. If it keeps on pumping out side shoots, I’ll be quite happy. ‘Toscano’ kale is behind it. I found it a bit chewy; I personally like the more delicate kales (the Russians) better, but the others I served it to liked it a lot.

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With so many of you suffering from the heat, I hate to complain about our cool, gray days, which the weather people are saying have set records and may be a new pattern as the continent heats up. The Seattle Times had a column a couple weeks ago counting summer as when it is over 80 degrees and at that time, counted only something like 78 minutes of summer! Since then we’ve had a couple more minutes, but still…

The lime basil germinated promptly, then succumbed—too cool to sustain growth (my hunch as to what happened to the ‘Galeux D’Eysines’ winter squash as well). —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington

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July 28th, 2011

Super-Sized Broccoli

johnlewisI just picked my biggest broccoli ever—a ‘Green Goliath’. I’ve never grown that variety before. The head is over 9 inches across. I’m not sure what it weighs since I don’t have a scale, but it’s huge.

This is a great year for broccoli in the Northeast. They are all producing well and the cabbage looks excellent also. Even the ‘Apollo’ broccoli we trialed last year has been good. Last year I got tiny little heads and no side shoots. This year I got decent sized heads and some nice side-shoot production. We have been getting regular rainfall this year; last year we got very little rain in June and July.

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By the way, that’s Chloe, the gardening dog, in the photo. She loves carrots, radishes, and the occasional green bean. She only sniffs broccoli.  —John Lewis, Newport, Rhode Island

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April 11th, 2011

My Favorite Greens

It will be a while before test varieties and other spring greens I sowed a while back will be ready to eat, but…

image006You know those sprouts that kind of look like broccoli at the top of the kale that lived through the winter? I think those are my favorite greens. Probably it’s because I haven’t had fresh greens from the garden for a while, and also because they don’t take any work. They just happen. And they do taste good. It’s a shame that many gardeners don’t eat them, or keep their kale (and other brassicas) around so they can enjoy these first spring greens.

We had a really cold winter, so not many of my kale plants survived. Enough did, though, to get quite a handful of sprouts today (which a farmer friend once called “spring broccoli”). The flower buds were just starting to form and were still deep inside the bushy young leaves. The stalks were very tender and I could just pluck them off. Later, there will be so many of these I won’t be able to keep up and they’ll become a big bush of kale blossoms. And I’ll be gorging myself on my next favorite greens.  —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington

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