Thursday, May 26, 2016

Greens


Right on the tail of getting the first harvest of the season is the start of the greens parade.  This is the much anticipated point in time when the greens trickle picks up the pace and you can start to walk PAST that section of the grocery store with a bit of extra pep in your step and mumble under your breath "see you in November..." :)

Our recent spurt of warm weather has put the garden in high gear - and it's about time.  Remember the bed that is planted up with quick growing crops that need to get pulled by next week so that the tomatoes can go in?  What a difference a week can make:

Bed #12 on May 19

Bed #12 on May 25

The rapini will likely land on the dinner plate this weekend:

Quarantino Rapini
 
Quarantino is a new variety this year.  The plan was to do a succession sowing of Sorrento & Zamboni in the empty spot beside it.  With the cold weather we ended up having, however, I knew that even though they were both quick varieties, they would have little chance of sizing up before I needed to clear the bed.

The baby choy also took a huge leap forward, from this:

Baby Choy on May 19
Ching Chang (front); Green Fortune (rear)
 
to this:

Baby Choy on May 25
 
The other half of the bed contains the claytonia, arugula and radishes:

Claytonia, Speedy Arugula and
Radishes (French Breakfast & Easter Egg Mix)

The claytonia hasn't grown any of the round leaves that are normally harvested so they could definitely use quite a bit more time.  This was obviously not a good choice for my early greens bed & I'll have to find another spot for it next year.  On the plus side, the tiny leaves they do have are quite delicious - mild with a wonderful juicy/crunchy quality.  I'm considering transplanting some of these into another bed, just to see what those main leaves are like.  The arugula could do with a bit more sizing up as well, but it's just about big enough to contribute a few leaves towards a salad.

And you see those radishes peaking out on the right?  Guess what I'll be snacking on this afternoon...

French Breakfast Radishes

The broccoli, turnip & kohlrabi bed is also doing well.

Bed #3 - Kolhrabi in the front with
broccoli & turnips in the rear

I made a bit of a mistake when I transplanted the Kossak kohlrabi - I transplanted them using a 6" spacing instead of 12".  I had allocated a 2x4 spot for this variety and my transplants only filled a portion of that space - which tipped me off that there was something wrong.  Kossak is an amazing variety as it's delicious, mild, sweet and crunchy AND it gets huge (or at least it did at the farm last year), while still retaining these qualities.  I decided to live with my mistake, so instead of digging up and replanting (and perhaps damaging) the seedlings, I'll be harvesting them at a smaller size.  I then sowed and transplanted a few more seedlings into the empty spots, this time spacing them correctly.

Further down this bed I inter-planted turnips with the broccoli:

Packman, Munchkin & Arcadia broccoli (smaller plants)
inter-planted with White Lady turnips

White Lady is a super quick 30-day variety so they will be harvested long before the broccoli really starts to size up.

Our weather has been very dry of late but slugs aren't picky - they could care less if your nice moist bed is courtesy of Mother Nature or a faucet:

Slug Damage on Turnips

Only a couple of the turnip leaves are damaged at this stage, so I'm not overly concerned.  Normally I would use diatomaceous earth to help fend them off, but since we are expecting rain today and for the next few days (DE doesn't work very well when wet), I'll be trying coarsely crushed eggshells instead - a tip that Sue shared last year.

Bed #7 is the final brassica bed:

Bed #7 is planted up with Chinese Napa cabbage, Joi Choi,
tatsoi, mizuna, collards, kale & kohlrabi

The Chinese Napa cabbage (pictured at the front of the photo) together with the Joi Choi, tatsoi & mizuna were only transplanted yesterday.

Joi Choi (right/centre) and Tatsoi (left)

In one of my books, I had read that you should hold off on transplanting Chinese greens until nighttime temps are consistently above 10C otherwise they may bolt on you, which is why I waited until now to get them into the bed.  The farm, however, transplanted theirs a couple of weeks ago and they seem to be doing just fine, as are those that I planted into the "early greens" bed.  I think that next year, I'll get them into the ground at the same time as the early greens & see how it goes.

The collards & kale were transplanted back on April 25 and they are responding to this great weather we've been having by finally putting on some good growth:

Kale (left/centre), collards (right, bottom), mizuna (right, top)

This year I'm trying a couple of new varieties of kale:  Red Ursa & Starbor.  Also in the lineup are my favourites from last year, Red & White Russian.

The last brassica in this bed is more kohlrabi, this time the smaller but quick Kolibri:

Kolibri kohlrabi

Just as with the Kossak kohlrabi, I messed up with the Kolibi and grew too few seedlings for the 2x2 spot.  Yesterday, I direct sowed some more seeds in the empty spots and I'm thinking this will be a good way to see how a succession sowing works out.  Kolibri is supposed to be a quick grower (43 days), so I'm hoping that we'll be seeing kohlrabi on our veggie tray by mid-June.

The last bed of greens contains spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard.  As I was about to uncover this bed, I was reminded of one of those buggy horror movies:

Flying Ants

The inside of the netting was swarming with large flying ants.  There must have been a nest in the soil and now they were all trying to find their way out.  I kindly obliged & they all flew away within a few minutes of my uncovering the bed.

Spinach (front), Lettuce (rear)

I'm growing five varieties of spinach - Space, Giant Noble, Renegade, Tyee & Viroflay.  Each variety was given a 2x1 spot except for Giant Noble.  As you can guess from the name, this one is supposed to get huge, so I'm giving it a 4x1 spot and only growing 1 plant in each 12" square.  The spinach is just starting to put on some size - good thing too as the overwintered spinach, which was in another bed, started to bolt so I ended up harvesting it all and pulling the plants.

For the lettuce, I'm growing Royal Red, Sweetie Baby, Pinares, Sierra MI and Jericho.  When I sowed the seeds back in mid-April, I had a few issues.  One variety that is missing from the lineup is Freckles.  I was SO looking forward to growing it but ended up with exactly zero seedlings.  Most didn't germinate and the few that did barely grew before calling it quits.

I also had a slow start with Pinares - they grew, but at a snails pace.  So I ended up transplanting the lettuce in two batches.  All of the seedlings that were a good size went in on April 30th and the rest didn't go in until May 18.  You can clearly see the size difference:

Sweetie Baby (left - larger early transplants with some babies in front);
Pinares (right); Royal Red (back)

The Swiss chard is planted at the end of the bed and I'm growing only a couple of plants for each variety - Bright Lights, Peppermint & Fordhook Giant.

Swiss Chard
 
These were transplanted last week so they still have a ways to go before we see a harvest.

I'll end on a hugely exciting note.  The bale conditioning that I have been doing seems to be working.  I purchased a compost thermometer and took a reading yesterday:

Hurray!

Four of the bales had readings of 120F or more while one of the bales is lagging a bit behind at 100F.  And one other VERY good thing - the smell has all but dissipated.  So there you go - super bad for about a week and then basically nothing.  I can live with that.

Something to note if you decide to try straw bales is that you may need to purchase a compost thermometer.  Most soil thermometers only go to 90F, something I didn't realize until I tried to take a reading with mine and it zeroed out after hitting 90.  Once the bales are conditioned, you have to let them cool down before planting.  I've heard of people killing their seedlings by planting them into the bales too soon, while the temps were still too high, so taking an accurate reading is pretty important.

I'm almost finished with the conditioning - yesterday I added the wood ash and bonemeal & now I just have to water for the next 5 days.  Then, so long as they are cool enough, we'll be all set to get those seedlings in!

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

24 comments:

  1. Things certainly do push on at quite a pace at this time of year. It is often difficult to appreciate just how much things will change in just a short time. You certainly have lots going on. The story of the flying ants had me squirming. When you cover for protection you never expect to have insects trying to get out.

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    1. Pictures are so revealing - I watched them grow over the past week, but even I was surprised at the difference in size when I looked back at the photo. Oh, those ants - I had just finished covering the bed beside that one, I turned around and was just about to remove the cover and practically jumped out of my skin!

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  2. That's amazing how much the rapini and baby choy jumped up in growth. And your spinach and lettuces look great. I'm very interested in your straw bale experiment.

    The diatomaceous earth I applied to the tomatoes last week seemed to really help cut back on flea beetle activity. I've found blooms forming on most of the tomato plants now.

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    1. Thanks Phuong! So far I've only used diatomaceous earth for slugs, but I do hear that it's good for other things as well. I just checked my turnips this morning and the eggshells seem to be working, which is great as we had quite a rainstorm yesterday.

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  3. What a difference a week can make, everything's shot up. You grow such a variety of greens, I love leafy veg but my family aren't so keen, I still cook it though, it's so good for you.

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    1. We love greens - well, everyone except my daughter. She is rather finicky and will only eat raw greens, such as lettuce & kale in salads. If I cook the kale, she won't touch it.

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  4. Long sunny days really do make for some amazing growth!

    I've had the same experience with lettuces, some just germinate more readily and some grow more quickly. Sometimes I have poor germination and then when I reuse the soil the seeds germinate so now I have lettuce popping up in my pepper plants. I had read somewhere that lettuce seeds need darkness to germinate so for my last round I placed a card over the top of the pots and 2 of the 3 varieties germinated in 2 days. The 3rd variety was just a weakling, didn't want to grow.

    I always feel a little odd at the grocery store, the cashiers must think I hate veggies since I so rarely purchase any.

    Can't wait to see how your straw bales work out, it sounds very promising.

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    1. Lettuce popping up in your peppers - LOL! You know what? I had heard the complete opposite about lettuce, that they need light to germinate!! Maybe it's variety specific? This whole light vs no light deal is so confusing. A few of my new pepper seed varieties indicated that they needed light to germinate. At first I thought that it was because of the variety, but then I realized that ALL of the packets from that company (can't recall which right now) said the same thing...so I just pre-germinated/sowed them as I normally do and they did just fine. I'm going to try another round of Freckles after all of the warm weather veg are planted outside and I think I'll do some with and some without light.

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  5. It seemed like nothing happened in our garden for the longest time, then Bang!

    It's fun when the warmer weather and longer days kick in.

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    1. You said it! After months of sowing seeds, preparing beds & transplanting, it's wonderful when we finally start being rewarded for our efforts!

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  6. I had the same experience with critters that must have hatched beneath my Agribon fabric. Amazing what lives in the soil, isn't it?
    Your stuff is looking marvelous. I don't know what all this warm weather (freaky!!) means, but I'm sure enjoying the EARLY start to it all.
    Happy Weekend

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    1. It is wacky, isn't it? I've really enjoyed the warm up this past couple of weeks, but tomorrow it's supposed to hit 100F with the humidex...yikes - that's a bit too much for me! Have a wonderful weekend as well...and stay cool ;)

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  7. What a great selection of plants. Husband wants to start some greens this year...not mostly tomatoes as in the past. Did anyone tell you that you are so darn tidy...lol

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    1. LOL - Since the kids were born, tidy sort of went out the window and was replaced with "good enough" ;) As they get older, however, things are slowly improving, so I have hope! I think your husband will be very happy with his decision to grow some greens - they are so rewarding & well worth a spot in the veg patch.

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  8. Some big changes in a short space of time, eh? I think you must have even more varieties of plant in your garden than my *mere* 40! The straw-bale experiment sounds interesting. I hope it works well. I hadn't realised that you had to do all that conditioning stuff.

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    1. Well Mark, you certainly inspired me when it came to variety! This year I have embraced the "grow more varieties, but fewer plants of each" motto.

      I was skeptical about the whole bale conditioning process, so I'm quite surprised that they are actually doing what they are supposed to. I can't wait to get them planted up!

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  9. How wonderful to eat your own greens instead of grocery shopping! I grew lettuce one spring but am always so eager to get my flowers in the ground, instead. If I was your neighbor, I'd show up with a big empty bowl and a growling stomach every day!

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    1. If you were my neighbor I would gladly send you home with an overflowing bowl & full stomach....and I have a feeling your influence would spill over into my perennial borders, which would undoubtedly look sooooo much better :)

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  10. Your greens look fantastic, nice to save the trips to the grocery store! That choy looks brilliant!

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    1. Thanks Susie! I'll likely be harvesting a bunch of choy today - so exciting as it's my hands down favourite Chinese green & last year, I didn't get much of a harvest (or at least not nearly as much as I would have liked).

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  11. Wow, it's amazing to see all of that progress! And I'm impressed at how you keep everything so organized - - what is your labeling system for seedlings before they get planted?

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    1. Keeping organized can be a bit of a challenge, especially when I'm in a rush to get something sown/planted up - which is not all that uncommon!

      To label pots, I use plastic labels that I make out of large (750 ml/3 cup) yoghurt containers. I cut each container in half, from top to bottom, then remove the bottom & top rimmed part so that I'm left with just the smooth sides. Then I cut it up into strips, probably about 1/2-3/4" wide and cut each strip at an angle on one end to form a point. One yoghurt container can easily give me 12 labels or more.

      I find these labels great as they are sturdy and not too tall (i.e. they fit in a covered seedling tray). They are also re-useable - at the end of the season I let them soak in bleach (that I then use when disinfecting all of the pots, etc.,) and that takes all the writing off of them...easy peasy!

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  12. Wow, it is amazing to see all the growth things made in just one week! Your rapini looks great. I didn't have a spot to sow it this spring and I'm glad I didn't because I doubt it would have liked the hot weather. Greens season is something I look forward to and yours all look great to me.

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    1. Thanks Dave! You just never know what the weather will throw at you - for us, it was the cold that threw everything off. But now we are definitely enjoying the harvests...including the 1st lettuce picking this evening :)

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