Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sowing Some Brassicas


There has been a lot of seed starting going on lately and if the weather continues to improve as it has been, it won't be too long before I'm working in the garden again - can't wait!

The kale & collards were next up on the seed starting schedule & I got them going a few days ago - March 15th to be exact.

Kale & Collard Seeds
 
As I list the varieties I'm growing, I have noted the source & year purchased in brackets.

This year, I am only growing one collard variety and no others - Beira Tronchuda (William Dam, 2014).  I first tried this variety last year and yes, it was that good (see why I feel this way in my End of Season Review post).  Although Beira Tronchuda is often referred to as "Portuguese kale", it is in fact a collard green.  You can see that, other than in size, Beira Tronchuda looks exactly like Vates collards in the photo below:

I grew two collard varieties last year, Beira Tronchuda (on the left) & Vates (on the right)
Beira Tronchuda was not only a heavier producer, but also slightly sweeter
 
Moving on to my kale selections, I was happy with both of the varieties I grew last year, so I'll be growing those again.

First up is a mystery variety.  The packet said that it was curly kale, but what I actually got was definitely NOT curly kale.

Mystery Kale (box store purchase - McKenzie, 2014)
 
Most people seemed to think this was some type of Siberian kale.  And you know what?  The seed mix-up turned out to be a blessing in disguise as this mystery variety was delicious and the leaves were huge.

Since I didn't know what variety it was, I nicknamed it NCK (Not Curly Kale).

The next variety I'm growing, also from last year, is Red Russian kale (William Dam, 2014), which I use primarily in salads.

Red Russian Kale
 
And since we (this should more accurately read "I") love kale salads, I decided to add a White Russian kale (Pinetree, 2015) to the mix this year.

Photo Source:  Pinetree
 
Last fall, I left both the NCK and the Red Russian kale in the beds, covering them with a thick layer of straw in an attempt to overwinter them.  The weather is still hovering around the freezing mark most days, so I haven't removed the straw yet, but I'm thinking that it won't be longer than another couple of weeks or so.


Seed Starting

Collard seeds are a good size, so these get pre-germinated.  They only took 2-3 days to germinate & then 2 additional days to emerge from the soil once sown.  I'm only waiting for one more to pop up.

The kale seeds were much smaller, so I decided to direct sow them, using 2 seeds per cell.  It's been 4 days and I've had great germination on all of them, with at least one seedling coming up in each cell.  The cell packs are now under the lights, together with the collards.

Collard & Kale Seedlings - 5 days
 
And lastly, I've made another purchase for my little seedling area in the basement - a new fan.

One tactic that I use to help prevent damping off is good air circulation.  Last year I used an old fan that my parents dug out from storage.  I think it was at least 30 or 40 years old & it had its quirks - I had it plugged into an extension cord, and if you moved it at all, the fan would stop working, so the plug had to be placed "just so".

About a month ago, as I was getting the basement ready for the upcoming season, I plugged in the fan and... nothing.  It had finally bit the dust.  It probably wasn't the most energy efficient fan, being from the '70's and all, so in a way I suppose that's a good thing.

Upping the circulation in my seed starting area with a new fan
 
The new fan is smaller, which saves on space, but still generates a good amount of air flow, even on the lowest setting.  It's not an oscillating fan, like my old one, but since my plant setup is in a relatively small area, I don't think that will make much of a difference - I can definitely feel the air movement on all of the grow light shelves, which is what really matters.

Till next time...

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

13 comments:

  1. I have a little tiny fan that I use sometimes in the seed starting area. I really ought to get it turned on.

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    1. As soon as I realized my old one was kaput, I had the new one going within a few days - I had the worst time with damping off a couple of years ago, losing dozens of seedlings, so I'm not taking any chances!

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  2. I took your recommendation on Kale and will be doing the Russian Kale this year--looks like beautiful stuff. Gosh, seeing your pics from previous seasons sure has me itching to get in the garden. I meant to drag out the coldframes and start thawing some ground and haven't yet had time. Oh, to be organized!!!! Maybe in my next lifetime? We do get a "do-over", don't we???

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    1. Oh, a do-over sure would be nice...so long as I remembered all of the lessons learned in this lifetime!

      And speaking of delays - I just purchased some 6 mil plastic to place on the beds so that I could get them thawing out more quickly and, of course, the shed door (where I keep the rebar that will hold down the plastic) has a nice chunk of ice right in front of it, so I can't open it...note to self - make sure to keep all the early spring supplies in the garage where I can actually get to them IN the early spring.

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    2. Another great tip! My shed door is frozen as well. I'm hoping today's temps in the 50's (!!!!!!!!!!!) will thaw it so I can get in there as well.
      Keep talking, Margaret. I keep stealing those ideas!
      :)

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  3. No doubt about it, Tronchuda Beira is a keeper. But I've read that it's a primitive non-heading cabbage, and the variety that I'm growing tastes like cabbage, especially the fat juicy stems. Apparently there are a number of varieties available in Europe and just a paltry few on this side of the Atlantic so I'm sure that there are a range of flavors in the family that we are missing out on. The one that I'm growing now (from Renee's) is the third variety that I've grown and the best one yet. I think that Tronchuda Beira (also called Couve Tronchuda) is one of those veggies that doesn't fall neatly into a category, like Romanesco (broccoli or cabbage or neither). Is Tronchuda Beira kale or cabbage or collards or none of the above?

    Hope that winter ends soon for you! We don't want your babies languishing under lights with an artificial breeze for too long.

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    1. Other than being a bit sweeter & obviously larger, there was little difference between the Beira Tronchuda and the Vates collards that I grew. I do, however, find that collards in general are quite different from the kale, both in terms of taste & texture. It's most likely exactly what you said - depending on your source, you may be getting different varieties of Tronchuda. One thing I do know is that it makes a delicious Caldo Verde!

      And I am SO done with winter....I'm now patiently waiting for the weather to improve just a wee bit so that I can get to work on my beds. Our weather lately has at least been seasonal so there is hope that this may happen sooner, rather than later!

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  4. I don't grow many brassicas, if truth be told I'm not all that successful with them. I've done well with kale in the past but I stopped growing it as it got infested with white fly and I just couldn't remove them all. I'm going to give it another go though as I'm on a different allotment site now so I shall keep my fingers crossed and we'll see how they do.

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    1. Everyone seems to have those one or two veg that are a challenge. For me, the big one has always been squash - I just can't seem to get them to grow well (while other people plant one little seedling and are then inundated with squash all summer!). A different site could very well make all the difference for you, especially when it comes to pests.

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  5. I keep seeing that Tronchuda Beira mentioned. It must be good. The mystery kale looks very much like Abyssinian Cabbage or Texsel Greens.

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    1. It IS good AND very productive for the space it uses up. If you like Caldo Verde, I definitely think you should give it a try.

      I had never heard of either of these brassicas - a quick search didn't really give me good photos, although Wikipedia did say that Abyssinian cabbage is used to produce biodiesel - considering how delicious this kale was, I have a hard time believing that it could be used as a fuel source!

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  6. When I grew Beira Tronchuda a couple of years ago mine looked exactly like collards too, though I think the stems are much more tender. I stopped growing it because I decided I liked kale more in the kitchen. I'm trying White Russian this year too. I have Red Ursa that overwintered, and hope to get some before it bolts.

    I also use a small fan on my seedlings for the reason you mentioned plus I think it helps toughen the seedlings a bit to get them ready for real world conditions that include wind.

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    1. I'm still waiting to see if any of my kale overwintered or not...it's probably wishful thinking, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try. I'll be removing their straw covering in another couple of weeks or so once the temperatures are more consistently above freezing.

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