Friday, April 7, 2017

Brassica Starts - Rapini and Kohlrabi


The weather has been wonderfully spring-like over the past week - I've been prepping beds, hardening off seedlings and spent one day ridding an old perennial border of buckthorn.  Then, this morning, I woke up to this:

The pile of buckthorn brush sits beside the large tree on the right

April just wouldn't be the same without our traditional, one last blast of winter snowstorm :)

So let's backtrack to the goings on earlier in the week.  I picked up 18 - 12.5kg/28lb bags of sheep manure, which is just enough for the beginning of season bed prep plus a few extras to use throughout the summer.

Once I get the manure home, I place one bag beside the beds that will need it.  All of the beds will be prepped over the next month and a half and placing the manure beside them from the start (instead of in a pile beside the shed) saves me from lugging it around a 2nd time.


The onions, shallots and leeks have been hardening off since Monday, together with the rapini, kohlrabi and claytonia.


Of course, these guys are staying inside today but tomorrow, they'll be back out outside.

The rapini & kohlrabi seedlings are still very young, only having been sown on March 29, but I need the room under the grow lights and they should do just fine in the ground...once all this snow goes away, that is.


Transplanting or sowing outside is always based on the forecasted weather, fallible as it may be.  I'm fairly sure this will be the earliest I've ever transplanted seedlings, not because I'm planting them out earlier than I should, but because I've always been late in the past.  Good weather would arrive and it would take me a good couple of weeks or longer to get my spring seeding act together.

But this year, I'm ready and my transplants will be going in next week.  It’s particularly important to get the rapini transplanted as one of the varieties I'm growing, Sorrento, matures at break-neck speed – going from seed to harvest in as little as 35 days.  And yes, I have tested that in the past and it is indeed true.

I grew a new variety of rapini last year, Quarantino, which is almost as quick at 40 days to harvest.



I harvested it somewhat late, however, which is an issue I frequently have with rapini.  I'm often uncertain as to whether it's done growing or not so let it keep going.  Then, all of a sudden, I see the tell-tale signs as some of the buds are on the verge of flowering and I do a mass harvest.

Overall, the rapini last year did ok, but nothing spectacular.  I had planned on sowing an additional 8 square feet but didn't get around to it, so it was a rather meagre harvest.

This year, I’m going to make every effort to harvest the rapini on time and I’ll be comparing the three varieties in my seed stash (Zamboni, Quarantino and Sorrento) with an eye to eliminating at least one of them.  In the past, I haven’t noticed a huge difference between them, but I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to do a proper comparison.

Quarantino rapini

While the rapini was ok, the kohlrabi was sub-par last year.  The culprit was the interminable heat which resulted in bulbs that were a little bit fiborous – not so much that you couldn’t eat them, but enough that we couldn't enjoy them as veggie sticks (the preferred method of chowing down on them the previous year).

Grated, however, they were just fine, so the harvest didn’t go to waste.  In fact, grating kohlrabi into a regular leaf lettuce salad was not something I had done in the past and everyone quite enjoyed it.  One benefit of a less than perfect (or over-abundant) harvest is that you sometimes have to be more creative in how you use it (cream of lettuce soup comes to mind…no kidding, it was good!)

Kolibri kohlrabi

I grew two varieties of kohlrabi last year – Kolibri and the giant Kossak – both of which are supposed to be heat tolerant.  I can’t blame them, however, for last years performance as even I was wilting in the 30C+/86F+ weather that would run for days on end.



This year I completely forgot to add Kossak to my seed purchase list, so I’ll be sticking with the leftover Kolibri seeds from last year.  I'm trying a bit of a succession planting with this one as I'll be direct sowing a 2nd batch at the same time as I transplant the seedlings next week.

Kolibri is a quick maturing variety so I'm hopeful that, with the help of the newly installed drip system keeping the bed nice and moist, they'll be ready for harvest before the heat of the summer kicks in.

It's still snowing a bit right now, but that's ok.  Tomorrow it's going up to 12C/53F.  And Sunday?  A gorgeous 18C/64F, thank you very much - perfect gardening weather.  I have a feeling I'll be sore on Monday :)

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

18 comments:

  1. The snow is pretty but not if you are anxious to do some gardening! It got cold here today but thankfully no snow. We like our kohlrabi raw too, but lately we have come to enjoy it fermented in a number of ways. We like the kohlrabi sticks both raw and 'pickled', plus we like the grated kohlrabi kraut better than the cabbage version. For me it's the broccoli that really seems to suffer in our spring and early summer heat. I need to get some planted here but it has been too wet to work the soil.

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    1. With everything that's gone on in the past few months, I have still not dug into the fermentation book I purchased but once I do, I'm really looking forward to trying the fermented kohlrabi.

      I was quite surprised that the broccoli did as well as it did last year. I am beyond impressed by Arcadia, so much so that this year I'm not growing any other variety. It's proven to be a real winner even when conditions are less then ideal.

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  2. I'm just getting caught up on spring and summer veggie seed sowing, I couldn't do it before we went on vacation and of course nothing got done while we were away.

    It must be quite a shock to go so abruptly from spring back to winter! The rain is having a go at us here again, but after a couple of weeks of dry weather it is welcome. Everything is unbelievably green here and there's wildflower "super blooms" going on in some areas because of the enormous amount of rain this winter.

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    1. We were having some light snow in the evening, but it was nonetheless surprising when I woke up to a winter wonderland. Thankfully, these April snowstorms are short lived and we go back to spring weather fairly quickly.

      How wonderful to be getting some super-charged wildflower blooms. They must be making up for lost time!

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  3. Margaret-I'm so sorry you got nailed with that storm. They called for 6-8 inches here, but somehow we lucked out and it fell as rain---HOORAY!
    I know we're not in the clear yet.....

    I have seedlings started , but not the weather to harden anything off...so they stay pampered under the grow lights in toasty warmth.

    I shred kohlrabi not only in to salads, but make a "slaw" of them with broccoli and carrots. Very good with the right dressing.

    Have a terrific time out there in the dirt this weekend!

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    1. All the snow is gone now and I'm raring to go - I did some bed prep yesterday and today I'll actually be doing some outdoor sowing :) If it hadn't been for those couple of lousy days, my transplants would also be going in but now I have to wait a few more days - I hate when my hardening off schedule gets messed up!

      We love kohlrabi slaw and have mixed carrots in with it too - but not broccoli, what a great idea! I'll have to remember that for this year.

      Hope you get some good hardening off weather soon :)

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  4. Your onions and leek seedlings look so healthy. Wow look at all that snow, it's definitely unwanted in April!

    My husband was actually out tilling the garden today, our last frost date is April 10th. I've got garden fleece so am debating planting the tomatoes out, usually they go in the last week of April or first week of May.

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    1. Thanks Phuong :) Our last frost is exactly one month after yours, on May 10th, which always surprises me for some reason. I normally wait a couple of weeks after that before transplanting the tomatoes, just in case.

      I would be nervous about transplanting your tomatoes out on the 1st frost date, even with the fleece - perhaps go halfway and wait a week before transplanting, which is still a week or so earlier than normal but will likely cut the risk down by quite a lot.

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  5. Seeing snow is sometimes discouraging for us gardeners. Glad to read that you are well organized with your seedlings. You should have a wonderful year gardening. Nancy

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    1. It is discouraging, but the Sunday forecast more than made up for it!

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  6. Argh - I hate April snowstorms, we do get them occasionally in Chicago. I love rapini, don't think I've even eaten kohlrabi.

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    1. I didn't try kohlrabi until I grew it and in fact, the 1st variety I grew was much too strong and I didn't really like it. Good thing I didn't give up on it as the 2nd variety I tried was amazing - what difference! Yum, yum!

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  7. Goodness, I can't believe you've still got snow. We're forecast 18 degrees today, warm for this time of year here. I tried growing kohlrabi a couple of times in the past but wasn't very successful, I'm not sure what I was doing wrong, consequently it's something I've never tasted.

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    1. Now that I'm keeping track of things like the weather, it seems we have an April snowstorm every year - something I never realized until I started the blog.

      I think kohlrabi needs plenty of sun and water, otherwise they don't do as well. One of the great things about vegetable gardening is that it excites you about trying different things - there are several veg, including kohlrabi, that I had never tried until I grew them.

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  8. Nice to see your set up for seedling trays and such. Not sure I've seen those before. Yes, we've had a last whack of winter, but I think it's over now, fingers crossed!

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    1. I use cell packs & get them from William Dam. They're inexpensive, fit perfectly into the trays and last for several years. It was glorious today, wasn't it? I am SO ready for spring to arrive!

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  9. I like kohlrabi best raw, but also chopped up and fried like potatoes for breakfast. It also makes a good soup. It's got to grow fast or it will get tough. Kolibri is one of the best. In a day or two, the snow will be just a memory. . .

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    1. It is a memory - we were in the 70's today! I like kohlrabi best raw as well - I also enjoy it roasted but have never fried it up before, so must give that a go this year.

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