By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
I ordered South American oca plants from Territorial Seed this spring. Oca, for anyone who didn’t read the earlier post, is related to a common weed, but grown as a staple by indigenous people of the Andes. It forms little potato-like tubers late in the season, which can be eaten raw or cooked like a potato.
The oca plants came at the beginning of June, and planting instructions said they do best in cool, wet climates with longing growing seasons. They also said that gardeners in hot climates should plant their oca in the shade.
I have a lot of semi-shade and shade in my garden, and in my experience, most veggies don’t do well in complete shade, so I chose six different places in my garden for my six oca plants. Three places were in my east garden, where they get morning shade and varying amounts of direct sun for periods in the afternoon and into the evening. I also planted them in shadier spots in the west garden, where they get morning shade, a small amount of direct sun at mid-day and lots of late afternoon and evening shade.
So far, the west garden locations are proving to be much better for oca, with the exception of one spot where the sprinklers weren’t hitting it (and I didn’t realize it for at least a week), and the poor little plant bit the dust. The other two plants, however, are looking pretty healthy.
I’ve read quite a bit about oca, and what I read said that they don’t seem to do much for the first month or two after planting, but they’re supposed to take off in late summer.
In my east garden, the oca is really struggling. It’s not putting on additional leaves and it seems to get spindlier by the day. I think the late afternoon sun is just frying it.
I had one that was getting quite a bit of sun, so I moved it to a shadier spot. Yesterday, when I got home, I discovered that it was still getting direct sun between 5 and 6 p.m., which is pretty brutal here, so I rigged up a shade barrier with an old sheet.
Yes, my garden now looks like a home for Caspar the Friendly ghost. I don’t care, I really want the oca to survive.
The plants were fairly pricey ($40 for six of them), but if I save some, then I can just start my own plants indoors next year in about February or March, using one individual oca tuber as a starter, like you do with potatoes. I want to grow more than six next year (provided we like the taste), since I have lots of shade. The only reason I didn’t plant them all in the shade this year was because I assumed that the ones in the shadiest places wouldn’t do as well.
Gardening is such a constant and ongoing experiment.
By Penny Stine
Monday, June 27, 2016
Sorry for all the carrot posts, but I try to eat what I grow, so I was looking around for something interesting to do with all the carrots (other than simply eating raw carrots) I’ve been picking. I wanted to make some sort of carrot salad, but had interest in making the carrot and raisin salad I grew up eating. I also had some papaya and some raspberries.
Sadly, they are not raspberries from my raspberry bushes. My raspberry bushes bloomed like crazy, but the flowers withered and dried up, just like they always do. I’m about ready to try Roundup on my raspberries and start over with a different variety.
But first, back to my carrot salad. I googled carrot and papaya, and got an interesting dish with green papaya, which I didn’t have. It sounded good, if I ever can get green papaya. Then I googled carrot and raspberry salad and got this: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120710/entlife/707109860/. It sounded tasty, and even better, it called for mint, and mint is the one thing in my garden that grows better than a weed.
I didn’t have any Valencia oranges, so I decided to substitute some chopped papaya. I also didn’t have any raspberry vinaigrette, so I substituted coconut-flavored balsamic vinegar. While I was on my tropical kick, I threw in some shredded coconut, too. I had some tiny red onions, so I sliced those and added that, too.
The result was delicious. The balsamic vinegar is almost too sweet, but the onions provided a nice counter-balance. It was definitely out of the ordinary, and I like food that is out-of the-ordinary.
By Penny Stine
Friday, June 24, 2016
See? I told you the carrots coming up all over my garden are short and fat. They're also pretty tasty.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Most gardening experts would probably tell you not to do this, but it works for me, since I’m time-challenged and also a somewhat lazy gardener. I routinely allow plants to go to seed in my garden, knowing and hoping full well that they plant seeds for next year’s garden so I don’t have to.
I quit buying tomatillo seeds at least eight years ago, since I always had volunteers that came up and did quite well. Same for kale.
Last year, my lettuce and carrots both went to seed. The photo on the left is this year’s lettuce (none of which I planted, but all of which I enjoyed for several months, from March through early June), which is going to seed. Sadly, lettuce that’s going to seed produces a flower that looks like a dandelion.
Carrots, however, are quite pretty. They look kind of like yarrow, only they’re much taller, with bigger flowers. One carrot produces several flowers on top, and each flower seems to contain hundreds of seeds, so if you let a couple of carrots go to seed, you have a lot of carrots the following year.
In the CSU master gardening class, I learned that you weren’t supposed to let carrots go to seed because almost all carrots are hybrids, which means that whatever carrots come up the following year won’t necessarily be the ones you planted the year before. I don’t care.
When I deliberately plant carrots, i.e., buy seeds or seed tape, carefully prepare the soil, plant at the correct depth, water meticulously and hover over constantly to see if they germinate, I have marginal success. Last year, I let several carrots go to seed, and I have the best carrots ever coming up all over my garden. They’re not real long, but they’re fat and tasty.
I’ve been putting carrots in my breakfast smoothie almost daily for two months, and I haven’t purchased any carrots at the store. We’ve also had them in salads, as snacks and as a side veggie. Not bad for something that didn’t cost me a dime and I didn’t have to plant.
This year, I’ve also got pineapple tomatillos coming up from the ones that fell to the ground in my flower bed that I didn’t clean up.
Sometimes it’s good to know what the experts recommend, and sometimes, it’s better to know what actually works in your garden.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
I bought an olla at Bookcliff Gardens more than a year ago. An olla is a large, unglazed ceramic pot with a long neck. You bury the pot and leave the neck sticking above the ground. See it behind and to the right of the happy, healthy tomato plant? Because it's unglazed, water seeps out of the pot, supplying moisture to the roots of the nearby plants.
I forgot to fill it throughout the growing season last year, since this particular bed is in the middle of my back yard & I just assumed the lawn sprinklers were supplying it with enough water, which turned it into a not very attractive piece of garden art.
Because I had spinach (and broccoli and garlic) planted back there earlier this spring and I wanted to make sure they got water before the irrigation water was in the ditch, I developed a better habit of filling the olla once a week. The spinach in that bed was happy and delicious.
I planted two tomato plants in the bed. The one next to the olla (which I have remembered to fill once a week in spite of the sprinklers) is thriving.
This plant is merely surviving. I didn’t notice how badly it was struggling until one day a few weeks ago when I looked at it lurking behind the spinach and saw that it was almost dead. I’ve started giving it extra water and it looks like it might eventually recover. I've also removed the spinach, since it had all bolted and gone to seed.
The tomato plants were the same size when I planted them, so my only conclusion is that the olla really works.
If you’ve got a small planting space that’s not convenient for sprinklers or a hose (or you suspect is not getting enough water with the sprinklers), then I recommend planting an olla. This bed is about 8 X 8 feet, however, and one olla wasn’t enough, since the almost-died tomato plant is in the same bed, only a little farther away.