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November 7th, 2012

122 Slugs and Counting

DebbieLeungThere was a break in the rain today, so I had to get out into the garden. It was gray, dry or lightly misting, and warm (about 60 degrees). First, there were lots of slugs, the little kind—there had to have been over a hundred that I “dealt” with. Many were on the Portuguese kale. What is amazing about this “kale” is that they are making giant heads, about 8 to 10 inches across! I’m going to wait for a good frost to sweeten them up before harvesting.

Portuguese kale, or "tronchuda beira," from Renee's Garden

Portuguese kale, or "tronchuda beira," from Renee's Garden

Remember the giant kohlrabi from last year, ‘Superschmelz’? I’ve been letting them get really big to really test them and thought I’d bring one in today for lunch. It wasn’t very pretty, but it was a good 8 inches in diameter and very heavy. I cut off a wedge, peeled it and it was fabulous! Sweet, crunchy, and not woody. It’ll take a while to eat it all!

'Yellowstone' carrot, 'Jester' acorn squash, and 'Chersonskaya' winter squash

'Yellowstone' carrot, 'Jester' acorn squash, and 'Chersonskaya' winter squash

Two weeks ago, I pulled another ‘Yellowstone’ carrot from a mid-April sowing for a stew. It just keeps getting bigger! Here’s a picture of it with the ‘Jester’ acorn squash, both surrounded by the ‘Chersonskaya’ winter squash. Haven’t tasted the squash yet. Beautiful, but I’m disappointed by the yield of both varieties.

While finishing up fall chores in the garden after lunch, I noticed more slugs! This time I counted: 122.  —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington

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August 9th, 2012

Cool, Cool Summer

debbie_tnHere in Olympia we’ve had about 5 days in the 80s or higher, so the tomatoes are just starting to set fruit and peppers are starting to flower. This is my first full season at my new garden after 25 years at my other place, so it’s like learning to garden all over again. There aren’t many big slugs here but lots of the little ones, which are much more insidious. You don’t realize they’re there until everything is gone and you wonder what happened. Together with a very cold, late spring, there were no early greens to speak of. Most are just now putting on size after several plantings.

GoldenEgg

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The ‘Golden Egg’ summer squash (above) from Burpee is now coming on and is quite tasty; looks nice, too.

LittleJade

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I got one ‘Little Jade’ baby Chinese cabbage (above), which was actually quite large.

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The Swiss chard Neon Glow Mix (above) from Renee’s Garden is pretty; tastes like chard. ‘Yellowstone’ carrot is a beautiful light yellow and quite sturdy but a bit dense for my taste to eat fresh. I’ve been grating it and putting it into everything when I remember. I’m growing the red carrot ‘Atomic Red’ for fall/winter. ‘Capitano’ bush bean is just now putting on beans. I don’t think it’s fair to rate it because those dang slugs kept eating the leaves back so the plants are quite tiny. Got to give it points for continuing to try to grow and reproduce!

Shangri-LaMarina

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Last year’s viola ‘Shangri-La Marina’ (above), an All-America Selections winner, made it through the winter and is going gangbusters. —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington

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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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May 24th, 2011

Volunteer Vigor

bill_tnGreat discussion question, Andres! At one time I would get a little miffed when volunteer seedlings would outdo my best efforts. I’ve learned to take advantage of it and consider it a blessing. I figure, if God plants something in my garden, who am I to resent it?

Most of things that come up on their own are ones that are finicky. Arugula is one such for me. When I sow arugula for harvest, it will turn serrated and old-looking if it’s too cold or too hot. Too much rain makes spots on the leaves. The volunteers seem to generally be happy.

Over the years I’ve grown fava beans in every area of the garden. They’re likely to pop up even before I start sowing. Sometimes the volunteers give me the first crop of the spring. Other times they just make a little nitrogen generator wherever they are. I don’t argue!

In winter and spring I like to leave mustards and other greens to flower for beneficial insect habitat. Some plants go to seed, so the next year I find myself wandering the garden and harvesting “strays.”

A few weeks ago I moved about 20 squash plants from where they volunteered in the potato bed to a row where I’d run short of melon plants. The relocated plants are looking good and just beginning to set fruit—ahead of most of my carefully sown squash. Most of the crossbred summer squash will make big, healthy plants, probably the result of hybrid vigor. So I grow these out and harvest them much like I would with a purchased hybrid. I just don’t save seed from the crossbreds—too many torpedo-shaped or other very odd gourd-like fruits happened when I did that.

If I was to give a short answer, I’ve learned to accept my own shortcomings and take advantage of the help I get along the way.  —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California

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December 11th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Debbie Leung, Olympia, WA

DebbieLeungBill’s comments below prompt me to report on my experience with the squash ‘Kumi Kumi’. I found it great for stuffing—I used rice, tomato sauce (homegrown and homemade, of course), spices, sausage, and I don’t remember what else. Not only does ‘Kumi Kumi’ have great flavor to compliment the stuffing, but its hard shell made the perfect bowl for it. But it is very hard to cut open—much easier when I got my rubber mallet into the act. Then I steamed the cut-open Kumi about 20 minutes, mashed the squash in the shell, stuffed it, and baked it until hot through. It’s been quite a hit. It also seems to get more orange as it sits awhile after harvest.

I’m also experimenting to see if the hard shell helps it maintain eating quality after freezes. I left mine on the porch during temps down in the teens and it’s holding up!

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