Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Garden Season Begins

Well, it's officially spring. The Vernal Equinox was this past weekend, we had gorgeous weather and a bright full moon. That was enough to get this gardener out in the dirt, with my little helper of course.(Big thanks to Dave for the awesome picture!)
I got the whole plot hoed, and then Rowen helped me get 50 onion sets in the ground. Those were all the yellow onions I grow as bulbs to store. We have another 50 or so white onions that I want to plant in a smaller space for green onions. Typically green onions are grown from bunching onions, but my research leads me to believe that it can be done with bulbing onions if they are grown close together (1" spacing vs the 3-4" spacing for bulbs) and picked early. This is a bit of an experiment.

The garlic I planted last fall is peeking up through the mulch. Some peeked through a little too early and got a bit of frost damage. Shouldn't set them back too far though. Maybe next weekend I'll take a few inches off that mulch so they don't rot in the damp spring weather. There were also a few garlics sprouting from the row I grew last year. They were so small I missed them during harvest. I'll let them grow a second year and see if they bulk up a bit. Worst case scenario, they don't and I toss them, but at least they can help repel some pests until then.

The turnips I overwintered in hopes of growing out for seed all look dead. :-( I covered them in mulch, but it's looking like none made it. I'll give them another couple of weeks to put on some growth or otherwise look alive, but it's not looking promising. This isn't a huge setback. It's not like there's a shortage of turnip seed. I'm just a little disappointed that I failed in my quest for biennial seed production. I'll probably try again this winter, and do something different. Maybe I'll get one of those windows from my Dad turned into a little cold frame and devote it to overwintering a couple of biennials; or try deeper mulch.

Another disappointment is the Garlic Chive plant that I transplanted from my MIL's garden. She lives in East Missouri, and last summer when we visited we dug up and potted some of her large clump of garlic chives for me to transplant to my garden. It's quite a change from there to NW Iowa, and even though I had them in the ground for most of the summer and fall, and even though I put some mulch on them at the end of fall, it's looking like I didn't do enough. Again, I'll give them another couple of weeks, but initial investigation looked not too promising. Sorry Pat! :-(

The Irises are coming up, and the Russian sage and Rhubarb I transplanted from Des Moines are both showing signs of life. With every day now something new shows some green, and it cheers me immensely.

With the start of the garden season, it's time to bring my winter storage experiment to some sort of close. I'll try and wrap it up and have something meaningful gleaned from it in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Parnips in the Springtime

As some of you may remember, I miss-timed the digging of my parsnips last fall. I left them in too long and the ground froze. I had heard that parsnips taste better after a winter of cold, and that most will survive without any coddling. So, I left them, and vowed to dig them up this spring and call it an experiment.

True to my word, I was out there a couple of weeks ago during a brief thaw. It didn't quite take a pickax to dig them up, but the ground was pretty icy. I dug up about half the row.

Wow. These things are huge! I broke the first couple because I'd underestimated their size. These parsnips are 14-16 inches long and a couple of them were 2 or 3 inches in diameter at their tops.

After digging and cleaning, my new worry was that they were so big and they might be tough. Well, I chopped up a couple into a soup, and that turned out really great. I chopped some into a stir fry and that was great too! A beef stew last week had some in it, also tasty. I'll go ahead and say it, SUCCESS!

This is one of those practices that traditionally supplements the cold storage of veggies. Ground storage of really hardy roots, through the winter with the intention of digging them up during the lean time of early spring. Different veggies will handle this with varying amounts of grace. Parsnips, celeriac and carrots are some of the veggies most often stored this way, but gardeners in slightly warmer climes than my zone 4, could get away with others, especially with a little bit of season extending, (think covers or mulch.) Cold hardy choices for this technique include most of the root veggies, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, beets and turnips, as well as leeks. Less hardy, but still doable, try radishes, cabbages and kale.

For those that care about such things, these were "All American" parsnips, direct seeded in early spring 2010. None were really ready for harvest in the fall. It's possible some were ready for harvest in early winter. They overwintered with absolutely no mulch or covering or anything, and came out in February tasting good. I'll harvest the last of them this month I think. (I only planted a 4 foot row of them.)

Blogger update: Sorry for the blog silence the past couple of weeks. The family flu had me down for a week, and put me way behind at work and at home. Things are finally calming down. Expect a small flurry of posts as I purge the backlog of Jennie-thoughts. :-)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Flowers are blooming

I have Amaryllis blooming on my table this week!

Lots of seedlings popping up in my greenhouse.

We're all wearing green, an unconscious plea for spring maybe?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Seed thoughts

Oops! Flu knocked me out for a few days. This post was supposed to go up last weekend. :-D Enjoy, I'll just tack an update on the end and call it good for this one.

Yup! It's that time of year. (Finally!) Time for seed starting up here in zone 4. Only certain seeds though. I started brassicas, some onions and herbs. All with my little helper, and using the new "Mini-Greenhouse" sent to me by my loving grandparents.

So far, I have to say I'm loving the mini greenhouse. I don't have "mini" lights, I have the full sized fluorescent "plant" bulbs in standard 48" housings. So, I improvised a little bit, and I'm hoping that the sunny south window will help make up for the improvisation.
My trusty little warmer mat made it through yet another move and summer storage. I worry every year about that mat, because I've heard from other seed savers that they have a high failure rate. I've never had a problem with mine. *knocks on wood*
Right now, I'm only running the lights/warmer mat 4 hours a day, from 4pm till 8 to supplement the warmth and light from the sunny window. Once sufficient quantities of seedlings appear I'll probably turn off the mat as the seedlings won't need the extra heat. Then, in another month or so when I start my warm weather crops I'll plug the mat back in and put it under that seed tray.
I'm starting veggies: green cabbage, red cabbage, bok choi, broccoli, artichoke and broccoli raab.
And I'm starting some herbs; Mint, basil, thai basil, green sage, catnip and thyme.

So, it's been almost a week since I planted those seeds. A lot of them have sprouted. All of the veggies, plus Basil, Thai Basil, Thyme and Green sage are up. :-D

Some of these seeds were old, so it's nice to see them still sprout.

More posts soon, after I recover a bit from this flu. Hope all your seeds are sprouting!