How to Grow

How to Grow Turnips

Similar to its relatives cabbage, broccoli and rutabagas, turnips are a cool season veggie.

Ready to harvest.

Ready to harvest.

They mature quickly so can be one of the first crops to harvest; and one of the last since they can take the cool fall temps.

These were planted at the end of July, as a succession crop when the potatoes were harvested. Of course we replenished the soil well first.

Here in the northeast area of the US, turnips, as well as a few other veggies, can be planted as late as September.

Turnips are pretty easy to grow, simply plant the seed about 1/2″ deep and water. The seeds are tiny so if need be just thin a few plants to about 2″ apart.

You can enjoy the greens in a salad or steamed, both from your thinnings as well as the mature veggie.
Don’t you love it when you get more from a veggie?

They have a mild flavor and are wonderful added to mashed potatoes, in soups, or simply braised or roasted.

There are other ways to use them as well…

The first three went into the Russian Sauerkraut. Mmmm...

The first three went into the Russian Sauerkraut. Mmmm…

Botanical Name: Brassica rapa
Yield: One veggie plus greens per seed planted.
Spacing: 2″
Days to maturity: 30-50
Hardiness: Can take some frost.
Storage: Refrigerate for a week or so if you leave some of the top on. Otherwise, dehydrate, freeze or pressure can. The greens can also be stored the same way.

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Categories: How to Grow, turnips

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9 Common Myths About Zucchini

zucchino rampicante

Not all zucchini are created equal.
Here are a few common thoughts about this misunderstood garden plant:

1. Zucchini are dark green.

The most common varieties of zucchini grown and seen in grocery stores are dark green, but there are a number of zucchini varieties that are different colors and even striped. Zucchini are squashes that were taken from America to Italy, developed there and brought back. They aren’t all green. Pictured above is Zucchino Rampicante, a beautiful shade of yellow.

2. Zucchini are very prolific.

They can be, and certainly the hybrids bred for market selling are. But most of the heirloom varieties produce far less. Here are two we favor.

3. Zucchini grow as a bush.

Again refer to the photo above. This zucchini is growing as a vine, as do a few other varieties. These are a great way to save space in the garden.

4. Zucchini are a summer squash.

Technically, yes. A squash is classified as a summer type if it has a thin skin. These are harvested throughout the summer and not stored fresh over the cooler months, as the thin skin will deteriorate too fast.

Conversely, winter squashes develop a thick skin by the end of the growing season, are generally harvested then, and stored in a cool area.

There are exceptions to every rule.

Some summer squashes, as is the case with the zucchini pictured, can develop a harder rind and then be treated as a winter squash.
Pretty neat, huh?

5. Zucchini are bland tasting.

The ones you buy at the market that have been grown primarily for high yield have a tendency to be bland, as do even ones developed for their productivity that you grow at home.
This is in comparison to some of the heirloom varieties that produce less, but IMHO are much better tasting zucchini.

Mandolin Jones, the cook, will only use heirloom types. Not that he is a foodie snob, he just doesn’t think the other zucchini are worth eating.

6. Zucchini should be picked at a certain size.

Some people who consider themselves zucchini connoisseurs will insist a zucchini be harvested at about 6-8 inches. Anyone who has ever grown one knows that their size can change a lot in one day.

It really depends on how you are going to use them. For a stir fry or ratatouille, sure the smaller size is better. Less or no seeds to deal with, and the veggie is more tender. For zucchini bread or especially if you are going to stuff the zucchini, you can or even need to have them bigger.

7. Zucchini can cross pollinate with other squashes.

They can, but only with other squashes that also have the botanical name Cucurbita pepo. This is a good example of why knowing the Latin name can help you. Other examples of Cucurbita pepo are pumpkins, crookneck, patty pan and acorn squash.

8. Zucchini are vegetables.

Technically, since they develop from an ovary, they are fruit. Not that this information changes anything, you’re certainly not going to toss them with some grapes and strawberries; but learning something new is good for your brain so we through it in here.

9. Zucchini cannot be frozen.

Obviously they can if you have the right equipment, or you wouldn’t be able to buy frozen zucchini. But for the home grower, freezing zucchini generally turns it to mush. Many people grate the zucchini, and freeze in the right quantities for zucchini bread. We have been freezing ours as zucchini burgers.
It’s all good and a wonderful way to have that fresh veggie taste all winter long.

Categories: How to Grow, squash

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How to Grow Flax for Beauty and for Seeds

True blue flax flowers.

Flax seeds from your garden? Yep, you can grow that!

Here’s a plant with a long growing history. In times gone by it was used not only to consume the seeds, but to weave clothes as well.
We’re not taking it quite that far though.

The beautiful feathery leaves on stems about 2-3 feet tall will produce an abundance of lovely ‘true blue’ flowers. Reason enough to plant flax.

flax seed pods

When the flowers dry they produce seed pods. Each pod will hold about 1/2 dozen seeds; not a lot if you use flax seed a great deal. But since you can tuck them into your flower beds, it can add up.

You can easily collect the pods when they begin to turn brown, as pictured above. To remove the seeds you can thresh by shaking them in a paper bag, or simply lightly crush the pods.

Note that you’re not going to get a lot of seed, but still it is fun and freshly homegrown is wonderful in teas and adds a lot of nutrition.

Harvested flax seeds

We’re thinking of hanging on to some of what we harvest this year to top some homemade rolls for our next family holiday gathering.

Of course, seeds will also be saved for next year’s planting. It’s always good to know you can grow some fabulous nutrition in amongst the daisies.

Flax Flowers with bee.

Flax flowers are self-pollinating, but the bees can sure help.

Botanical name: Linum usitatissimum
Germination time: 1-3 weeks, faster if kept moist.
Days to maturity: 90-100
Growth habit: 2-3 ft tall, full sun. Like good organic matter and frequent watering.
Height: 1.5-3 ft.
Hardiness: Considered an annual but may reseed.
Storage: Store dry in a cool place like other seeds.
Uses: In baking, as a substitute for eggs in some recipes, crushed as an oil or in tea.

you can grow that

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Categories: grains, herbs

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Perennial Parsnips Part 2

parsnsip seed heads

This experiment is already over a year in the making, having first planted the seeds in the spring of 2013.
Last April we looked at the beginnings of it, and what the plan was.

Basically, it is an effort to get a biennial root crop to reseed itself, thus making it one veggie we never need buy seeds for again; and to do that in a zone 5/6 region.

So far so good, though it has taken all summer.
We did what we planned and left 3 roots in the bed to flower and reseed.

collecting parsnip seeds

And man did they reseed! Not only is the bed full of wee babes, but we also have sufficient seed to share with our friends and kids.
If we repeat this experiment, one root will be enough to fill a 4×4 bed, and keep everyone in parsnips.

The main question now is whether the seedlings will be strong enough to survive the cold. They will get a splash of some Moo Poo Tea to insure great root growth and as a way to replenish the soil.
We may also give them some help with a cold frame cover and mulch, but the less we need to intervene the better.

parsnip seedlings

It is also very possible that the timing for this may be just a little off, and that eventually we will need to plant from seeds again.

Of course, if we continue to save them each year, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Now we are prepared to take what we have learned and see if we can get similar results with carrots.

You’ve got to love free veggies.

Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow, parsnips

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5 Lessons Learned at a Garlic Festival

garlic festival food

1. You can put garlic in anything.

Oh sure, we all know the most common foods, and this sign was just the beginning.

It went on from there to sauces, garlic-hot pepper jelly, oils and in case that wasn’t enough… garlic ice cream.

Yep, you read that right, and it was surprisingly not as bad as we expected.

2. That German White and Purple Stripe are two of the best varieties for colder climates.

Every farm stand that was selling garlic had at least these 2 selections. Both are hardneck and cold hardy, something we need here in the northeast and even up into Canada.

The Purple Stripe is also considered to be the ‘Grand-daddy of all garlic” in that it is thought to be the oldest type still around. Kind of neat, right?

How to freeze garlic.

3. You can freeze garlic.

And perhaps you should. Frozen garlic will hold its flavor better than refrigerated bulbs.

We never really thought about it before, but it does make sense. It certainly is easy enough to try.

4. That a garlic bed should be fertilized twice.

At planting time, here in zone 5/6 that is mid-October, and again when the ground thaws in the spring, add bone meal, blood meal and a fertilizer that is about 10-20-20. Of course that depends on your soil, but generally a good plan of action.

This summer we saw how well bone meal worked for our onions, so knew it would likewise be good for the garlic.

Garlic Viengar shots.

5. That some people will try anything.

Garlic is good for you, vinegar is good for you. Why not combine them, right?

Mandolin was just one of a number of people, men mostly, that tried the garlic vinegar. Perhaps it was the sign ‘More potent than Viagra’ that got their attention.

We’ll leave it at that. ;-D

Categories: gardening people, places & things, garlic

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How Much Room Does Corn Need to Grow?

growing corn

My husband decided to be more involved in the garden this year, beyond just the grunt work.
The idea was to work together and grow less variety of plants, but enough of each to last a year.
So at the planning stage he gave his opinion about growing one of our favorites, sweet corn.

“It takes up too much room,” he said, “grow something else and we’ll just buy corn from the farmer.”

Okay, sounds like a plan.

So he added the manure to the beds and I planted the seeds and seedlings. When all was finished there was one bed left.

This was an opportunity to plant something I have always wanted to, dry corn.
Corn meal, polenta, grits; things we never were able to make from homegrown before we will get a shot at this fall.

Yesterday we did pick up about 10 dozen sweet ears from our local corn farmer, and proceeded to remove the kernels and process it.
It took a few hours, and the conversation led to the question of how much room it would take to grow that amount of sweet corn ourselves.

So I took him into the garden and showed him the corn bed.
In a 4 ft by 10 ft bed, there are 14 rows of corn with 4 or 5 stalks in each row.

Not to mention the beans and squash growing below.

“Most sweet corn will produce 2 ears per stalk,” I told him, “this is all the room we would need.”

“Oh, I thought it took a lot more space. Next year we should grow our own corn.”

“Hmm…” I thought, “let’s see first how much better the polenta tastes.”

Categories: corn

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How to Grow Ground Cherries

ground cherries

Their name makes sense.

Ground cherries, a relative of tomatoes and looking very similar to their closer cousin tomatillos, are cherry sized and drop to the ground where they ripen.

Now if that sounds kind of messy to you, it really isn’t. Like a tomatillo, they are wrapped in a papery shell which keeps them clean.

Start seeds indoors the same time as tomatoes, about 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost. Plant them when the soil is warm, setting the transplants in deep also like tomatoes.
The plants are pretty hardy and can take most soil types, but do better in a loose soil that allows for root growth.

Ground cherries also will develop more roots along any part of the stem that is below ground, helping them to take in more nutrients.

They produce many pretty small yellow flowers, and the tiny fruit will be ready to harvest about the same time as your tomatoes.

ground cherries

They start dropping to the ground at a green stage. When the husks turn a deep yellow, the fruit are ready to eat.

The taste has just a hint of tomato, but is much more like candy; very tart and sweet and rather addictive.
Prepare as you would berries or other fruit.

Botanical Name: Physalis spp.
AKA: Cape Gooseberry, Gooseberry, Strawberry Husk Tomato, Husk tomato
Spacing: 3 ft.
Hardiness: Anywhere you can grow a tomato.
Days to maturity: About 65 days to drop, a few more to ripen.
Harvest: As they fall, eat when the husks turn dark yellow.
Yield: Prolific.
Storage: They hold up well in the refrigerator. Freeze with the husks off. If you have any left, that is. Can as a jam or fruit chutney.
Pests & Diseases: Same as tomatoes.

Categories: ground cherries

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Zucchini – When More is Less

Costata Romanesco zucchini

First this one popped up.

My husband Mandolin Jones always jokes that “Two zucchini plants are at least one too many.”

It is not hard to understand his thinking.
Back in our restaurant days it what quite common for us to find ‘donations’ of surplus green squash on our stoop.
The local gardeners knew they would not go to waste.

So over the years we kind of backed off on the zucchini.
We tried a few varieties, including one hybrid called Cashflow, that would have lived up to its name if we were selling them.

If was only a few years ago that an heirloom called Costata Romanesco caught my eye. It wasn’t very prolific, but distinctive in its appearance and the taste was far superior to any others we had grown.

I’ll admit I got caught up in trying new varieties, forgot about that one, and Mandolin seemed less than interested in any of them.

It wasn’t until this past spring when I found a small packet of seeds I had saved, that I thought about that delightful heirloom. Hoping that the parent plant had not cross pollinated with another squash, I gave it a go.

And gone it was.

Apparently either the birds or the voles took the seeds, or so I thought.
So I planted again.

As good luck would have it, 1 of the first batch did finally sprout, then later on 2 from the second sowing.
Older seeds don’t always germinate as well as fresh ones.

Costata Romanesco zucchini

And then…

So on a recent walk through the garden Mandolin asked “Is this zucchini?”
“Yes.”

“And this is zucchini too, right? Three plants?”

I paused.
“Yes.”

He paused, and took a closer look.

“Is that the delicious variety you grew a few years ago?”
“Yes, yes it is.”

“Good,” he said, “I liked those.”

Sometimes I guess, you just get lucky.

More on this variety.
Zucchini- When 2 Plants are are Least One Too Many on Pinterest

Categories: squash

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6 Warm Weather Plants to Grow in Colder Areas

Baby Clementines

Baby Clementines

You are not as limited by your growing region as you might think.
Over the last few years we have discovered there are more plants that can be grown in a cooler region, like here in the northeast zone 5/6, than we thought possible.

1. Meyer Lemons

We purchased a grafted tree that can be grown in a pot. Lemon trees can take cold temperatures to just below freezing, and we have heard of many gardeners in the north keeping theirs in a greenhouse through the winter.
Our intention is to bring it indoors instead, as the flowers have a wonderful scent and the plant is attractive.

There are already a number of tiny lemons just this first season, and hopefully they were pollinated well enough that they will develop into lemons.
Admittedly, we used our tuning fork to help hedge that bet.

2. Clementines

Growing similarly and close by is another grafted tree that will produce Mandolin Jones’ favorite fruit. This is also in its first season and already loaded with tiny fruit.
Like the lemon tree, this will be coming indoors for the winter.

3. Avocado

Now in its second year, the avocado tree will be flowering later in the season.
Last year it did produce 8 fruit, all of which were accidentally knocked off in 3 separate accidents.
We have learned to be much more careful with our special trees now, particularly when moving them back indoors.

4. Ginger

This is the second round for growing ginger from a store bought root.
You can read all about it here. The main thing we have since learned is that we prefer homegrown so much, that we are going to need at least one more pot of it to get through the year.

You’ve got to love the added benefit of never having to buy ginger again.

5. Turmeric

A relative of ginger, turmeric is grown pretty much the same way. Our roots that were covered in soil sprouted better than ones placed just on top, like the ginger root was.

It is supposed to produce a few months sooner and we are looking forward to prepping it in the same way we did the ginger.

6. Wasabi

This is the newest plant to join the array of unusual things to grow, and the one we are having the most difficult time with. Wasabi prefers to be in the shade and it requires lots of water.
That combination can easily lead to a mold issue, so we have found that it also needs air circulating about it.

Which in turn leads to a need for more water.

So yes, admittedly keeping this plant alive has been a test of our gardening dedication. Especially because at a DTM of 2 years, it will also be the plant growing the longest before it can be harvested.

Homegrown Turmeric

Homegrown Turmeric

Categories: gardening, How to Grow, The Experiments

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How to Grow Turmeric

turmeric rhizomes

Grub-like rhizomes.

This is one of the fun gardening experiments of the year, and is mostly inspired by the sheer determination to be able to grow curry.

Turmeric is a relative of ginger, and does grow pretty much the same way.
In our case it differed in that it took almost 6 weeks to sprout.

We planted some the end of April, some a few inches under the potting soil, and a few others close to the soil level; which we have learned ginger prefers.

Nothing.

Still nothing.

how to grow turmeric

June 6

It wasn’t until early June that any life-signs were seen.
To be honest we had all but given up on it, so perhaps the less frequent watering challenged it to grow.
Or perhaps, because turmeric actually likes water, the rhizomes we purchased were not very fresh.

From what we can see it is the more shallow-planted rhizomes that have sprouted. You can find these fresh at stores that cater to populations from India and Asian countries.
We found ours on Amazon.

If you have never used turmeric, it is was gives curried dishes, mustard and stir fried rice their yellow tint.
It is also considered to be very healthy for you.

how to grow turmeric

One month later.

It takes about 8 months to grow, a little less than ginger.
So here in the northeast it is outside in the sun now, but will come back indoors when the weather starts to cool.

Like its cousin, we expect it will be a pretty houseplant.

That is until we dump it for the ‘gold’ that lies below the soil.

Botanical name: Curcuma longa
Hardiness: Prefers temperatures between 70F and 90F
Height: About 3 ft.
Days to Maturity: 8 months, give or take.
Uses: Culinary, medicinal and as a dye.
Storage: Store fresh for quite a while, dehydrate and then grind into a powder as needed. Like ginger, it could probably be pickled. Follow the link to Ginger above for the recipe.

Categories: ginger, turmeric, The Experiments

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