By Penny Stine
Thursday, April 23, 2015
This is my last blue dwarf kale plant. As you can see, it decided to flower and go to seed. I can't remember when I first planted it there - probably five or more years ago. This is a fairly shady area, so the leaves never got big, but the kale plants produced small, tasty leaves all summer long. The plants always looked like they were dead in the winter, but in the early spring, I'd cut away the dead stuff and they would start growing again. I've picked quite a bit of kale off this plant this spring, but now that it's going to seed, I know it will be done soon.
Oh well, I think I've got more kale sprouting elsewhere from beira tronchuda variety I planted a few weeks ago, and I can always go to Bookcliff Gardens for more of the blue dwarf seed. If you like kale, it's got to be one of the most cost effective things to grow in a garden. Plants produce all season and often survive from year to year like this one did. Plus, they look pretty. Well, they look pretty before they get all leggy and go to seed.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
I saw this headline on Yahoo earlier today about 10 veggies and herbs that are so easy to grow they practically grow themselves, so of course, I had to click and read the story. While I agree with some of the list (mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, chives), I didn't agree with some of the others. According to the story, cilantro, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and summer squash also belong on the list. As someone who has been gardening for while here in the Grand Valley, I disagree with those last five on the list, although as you can see from the photo, I've got both lettuce and radishes growing happily in this pot on my patio right now.
We have a unique micro-climate here in the Grand Valley. We can get ridiculoulsy cold in the winter and we also get ridiculously hot in the summer. The hot is much more reliable every year than the cold, since some winters, like this last one, are downright mild. We're also incredibly dry here, which means we have to irrigate. Both the dryness and various irrigation practices can also cause problems.
In my experience, lettuce, radishes and cilantro are not such a slam dunk due to our excessive summertime heat. This year, I'm hoping that I can control heat for both lettuce and radishes by having them in pots. Usually, I grow lettuce that it so bitter no one wants to eat it and cilantro that bolts as soon as it gets its first few leaves.
As everyone who tries to grow tomatoes in the Grand Valley knows, sometimes they're not so easy, either. If the wrong bugs get to them, you could get curly leaf virus. If you don't mulch or water properly, you may develop blossom end rot. Will they grow here? Absolutely! But you may have to make more of an effort than you would elsewhere.
While zucchini and other summer squash has a reputation for being ridiculously easy to grow, here in the Grand Valley, squash bugs are a real problem. They're hard to control and they'll take out entire plants. They kill both summer and winter squash. I'm excited to grow lemon squash this year, since on reviews of the seed, many growers say it's resistant to squash bugs.
When you're looking for gardening advice, go to a local source, someone who knows all about our alkaline, clay soil and our June temperatures that have been known to hit 90 or 95. In addition to giving tips to grow those summertime classics, they'll probably be able to steer you to some other veggies that may be difficult to grow elsewhere, but which are a slam dunk for the Grand Valley.
By Penny Stine
Monday, April 20, 2015
I love it when people pass along gardening tips and this one is from Julie Hughey, our online advertising coordinator. She mixed this organic weedkiller up and sprayed it on her weeds yesterday. Then it rained slightly last night, but when she went home at lunch, the weeds still looked sickly!
I'm pretty sure I have all the ingredients in my kitchen, so I'll be mixing up a sprayer-full and using it on weeds (and unwanted grass) in my yard.
Oops! - I forgot to include the formula. Here it is: Recipe: 1 gallon white vinegar, 1/2 cup sea salt, 1/4 cup liquid dish detergent
By Penny Stine
Friday, April 17, 2015
I’ve been gardening for quite a few years. When I was a teenager, my mom had a big garden, too, so planting seeds and seeing something sprout a week or two later shouldn’t be so amazing and wonderful, but it always is.
In January and February, when the spinach I plant in November sprouts, it makes me all kinds of happy. The spinach is on the right hand side. In the upper left corner there are a few leeks that were too small to pick last fall, but which should be ready soon.
I transplanted cool season veggies a couple of weeks ago (and there's a tiny purple cabbage and orange Swiss Chard plant near the bottom of the bed in the photo) and also planted kale, cabbage, broccolini, carrots, Swiss chard and beet seeds. Almost every day, I’ve gone out to the garden to see if anything’s sprouted yet. So far, I’ve seen dirt but no tiny plants emerging.
I also see the tiny transplants that haven’t quite determined whether or not they’re going to survive.
It’s about this time that I get impatient, certain that none of the seeds will sprout and I’ll have to go buy more seeds or actual plants.
Usually, I’m rewarded a few days or a week later with little seedlings emerging from the ground, and I’m sure this year will be do different, especially with all this nice rain we’re getting today.
Although I’m sure that some of the tiny plants I planted two weeks ago will eventually grow and produce, about the only ones that have started to look happy are the baby bok choy.
I know from my experience last year that they will soon grow like crazy and give me lots of bok choy for about a month, and then they’ll be done.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
I’ve got quite a few perennial herbs planted in my gardens. I use a few of them often, and I forget about most of them a lot. I’ve learned that many herbs have weed-like tendencies - they’ll grow almost anywhere and spread where you don’t want them. Mint is probably the most notorious in that way.
I bought a tiny lovage plant from Bookcliff Gardens a few years ago just because I was curious about it. I’d never heard of lovage and never had a desire to cook with it, but given the chance to grow something unknown, of course, I said “Yes!”
Although it hasn’t spread new little lovage plants all over the place (like the salad burnett I bought at the same time does), it has grown. As you can see, it’s pretty big for mid-April. Last year, I think it grew at least four or five feet tall.
I haven’t quite figured out what to do with it. Lovage is related to celery and parsley, and tastes similar to both, only stronger and greener. I have a tendency to go overboard when trying new flavors - you know, if a little bit is good, then a lot is even better - especially when I have a plant or plants that produce like crazy.
Last year, I tried lovage in potato salad. A little bit was good. Too much was not. My husband begged me not to ever use lovage in anything again. I never agree to such harsh restrictions, but I promised to be more judicious in my use of the lovely herb and didn’t use it again last year.
But come springtime, when there’s not a lot of anything else in the garden, my pickin’ fingers want to go back to the weird perennial herbs. This time, I used just a couple tablespoons of diced lovage when I roasted some potatoes. The result was good and the roasted lovage was less intense, yet it still gave a subtle, fresh flavor to the roasted potatoes.
I’ve got a few leeks left in the garden from last year that are almost ready to pick, and I think I’ll make a leek/lovage/potato soup. I expect it will be delicious, if I can manage to not turn it into a LOVAGE!LOVAGE!LOVAGE!/leek/potato soup.