How to Grow

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

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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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How to Grow Tomatillos

tomatillo flower

Looks innocent enough.

A relative of tomatoes and even more closely to husk cherries, tomatillos are easy enough to grow. Some gardeners have expressed difficulties with pollination, so here are 2 things it helps to know:

1. Although they have both male and female parts on the same flower, they do not self-pollinate well. Which means:

2. Just because you get a husk, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a fruit.

For tomatillos it is best to start the seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last expected frost, and transplant to the garden about 2 weeks after the last spring frost.

You will need to plant at least 2 because of the pollination issue, and let them intermingle well.
If you live in a hot region, natural pollination will be more difficult.

So if you find you are getting nothing but husks, or if you want to insure fruit, you would be better to hand pollinate some by using a small paintbrush to move pollen from one plant to another.

tomatillos plants

2 plants 6 weeks after transplanting

If you are still not getting fruit, trying picking a flower from one plant and gently rubbing it inside the flower of another.

Using these methods, we are just now starting to get husks that have a small fruit inside, so we will probably back off for a while to see if they will produce on their own.

baby tomatillo

See the shape of the little fruit?

As we understand it, tomatillos can be quite prolific as long as that pollen gets moved.

Botanical Name: Physalis ixocarpa
Spacing: 3 ft.
Hardiness: Almost everywhere there is sufficient time.
Days to maturity: About 2 months after transplanting.
Harvest: When the husks break open.
Yield: With good pollination, 2 plants will give enough to enjoy fresh and preserve or share.
Storage: 4 weeks fresh in the fridge, or can. Especially good as Salsa Verde.

Categories: Tomatillos

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3 Types of Peas

yellow and green snow peas

Yellow and Green Snow Peas

Here in northern USA we consider ourselves lucky that we have two pea growing seasons, plenty of time to plant both in early spring and again in late summer.

Which kind of pea(s) any gardener plants is a matter of preference, but the different types are often confused with one another:

1. Snow Peas
Known for their curved appearance, snow peas are best harvested when they are young. You cannot pick a snow pea too small, if you can see it you can eat it pod and all; and right off the vine, for that matter.
Most snow peas suffer in their texture if they become over ripe. They make for better eating, less ‘woody’ as my husband says, when picked small before the seeds inside begin to develop.

2. Snap or Sugar Snap Peas
Snap peas are similar in appearance to snow peas when they are young and are often confused for snow peas. In this case you want to actually let the pea seeds inside develop before you harvest. ‘Snap’ the top part of the pod, and pull any string off that comes out in the process.
Again you can enjoy pod and all.

3. Shell Peas
Also referred to simply as Garden Peas, this is your basic green pea. The pods are harvested after they get quite plump, are opened and the seeds inside is what is enjoyed fresh or steamed. The pods of shell peas are usually more elongated and have less of a curve to them.

shell peas

Shell Peas

Here in the Jones’ garden you will find a few different colors of snow peas in the spring, and a wee bit of snap and shell peas.
By fall we are pretty much fresh pea’d out, so only will grow and harvest shell peas for preserving.

How to grow peas.
A few varieties we enjoy.

Categories: peas

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Broccoli Raab – You Can Grow That!

broccoli raab

Perfect little harvest.

Newer to many home gardens than its brassica relatives, broccoli raab is gaining favor rapidly.
And for good reason.

Like cauliflower, cabbage and of course broccoli, you can start the seeds indoors to be ready to transplant about a month before the last spring frosts.
Similarly, it prefers cool weather and is perfect for that spot in the garden that gets a wee bit more shade than the rest.

broccoli raab

See the numerous side shoots?

It has a few advantages over the others, especially broccoli which has always been difficult for us to time just right.
Actually, that is one of the pros of broccoli raab; the timing doesn’t matter much.

You see, you can eat the mini heads even if they have started to flower. Just harvest the heads as they begin to mature.

Or, you can pick the entire plant when the heads first appear, and enjoy stem, leaves, shoots and all.

broccoli raab

Small heads beginning to flower.

It is also a heck of a lot faster from seed to table.
We planted our transplants out at the end of April, and they were ready to harvest in just 4 weeks.
Seriously, the other transplants were just coming out of transplant shock.

We found the flavor to be much milder than broccoli, so it is a good intro veggie for young ones and those who do not favor broccoli.

Whether you have had issues growing broccoli, have a short season, a small garden or are in a hurry to get some good eating, give broccoli raab a try.
Because…

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort on the part of garden writers around the world, to simply help others learn to grow. For more fun reads, click on the logo above.

Botanical name: Brassica rapa
Common names: broccoli raab, rabe, broccoletti
Hardiness: Prefers the cool. Transplant out early or direct seed well into spring and again in the fall. May over winter in some areas.
Days to maturity: From transplants 4 weeks, direct seed 6 weeks.
Height: About 24″
Seed source: Open pollinated.
Use: Culinary. Use the leaves, stems and heads as you would beet or turnip tops; raw in salads or cooked.

Categories: broccoli raab, you can grow that

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4 Ways to Support Tomatoes… Well, actually 5.

Every gardener knows at least one way to support the most anticipated crop of the season.
Many have their favorite way.
Here’s a few options you may have heard of, and one I bet you didn’t:

1. Stakes

how to support tomatoes

Staked in a planter.

Likely the first way anyone supports a tomato, stakes are easy to do and relatively inexpensive.
Points to Remember: Always put your stake in the ground or pot at the same time you plant the tomato, so as not to break any roots. Also, tie your plant to the stake loosely, or with a stretchy material, such as string or old pantyhose; never use wire.
Drawbacks: The main negative aspect to this method is having to go back and add ties. With just a few tomatoes, this is no big deal; but as I grow older and my garden bigger, this became a problem.

2. Cages

how to support tomatoes

Upside down cage.

Tomato cages, in their many forms, are a wonderful way to support your tomatoes.
Because our soil is very rocky, and in raised beds, we turn our cages upside down and support the plants that way.

how to support tomatoes

A little fushia in the garden.

For most plants, they work wonderfully well, and can add a bit of pizazz to your garden at a relatively low cost.

how to support tomatoes

I'm a sucker for color

Points to Remember: If you grow rocks as well as you grow veggies, like us, tomato cages are impractical unless you place them upside down around your plants. Also, most containers used for growing are not deep enough, inverted cages do well here though.
Drawbacks: As I mentioned, these particular cages set up to 24″ deep in the ground, that does not work for all gardens. There are other designs, though, check into those. I also found these did not stand up well in a high wind storm. Don’t ask. :-(

3. The Weave

how to support tomatoes

What have we here?

This is a wonderful way to support your plants that I fully admit I am trying for the first time.
Simply put a stake at either end of a reasonably sized row of tomatoes, then run a string stake-to-stake, in and out of the plants.
The next string up runs alternately, thus supporting the plants from both sides.

Points to Remember: Although I’m new to this, I’ve already learned to keep after it. I would suggest two opposite rows every time the plants get about 4-6 inches taller.
Drawbacks: Still some bending, but a lot less than some of the other methods. Pruning is highly recommended.

4. String ‘Em Up

This idea came into my life through Eliot Coleman’s wonderful Book Four Season Harvest (see the link to the right). I’ve since seen many adaptations.
The idea is simple, tie a string to the bottom of the plant, some gardeners tie the string to a stake and push that into the soil. Secure to a structure above.
As the plant grows, loosely twirl the string around the plant, giving it support.

how to support tomatoes

A more structured life.

I like this because there is far less bending. If your support is well built, there is also less chance of problems with heavy wind.

how to support tomatoes

Hangin' comfortably.

Usually we plant basil in the middle of the tomato patch, this year it’s filled with beans instead; which led to support method #5.

how to support tomatoes

Beans and maters.

5. Let nature help.

I swear I thought the beans I planted were all bush types.
Apparently not.

how to support tomatoes

And nature's way.

Isn’t it great- the bean vine is holding the tomato plant to the string support.
No bending, no tying- about as simple as things can get.
I love this so much that next year I intend to try it with all my tomatoes.

Points to remember: No matter how much you think you know, nature can still out-grow you.
Drawbacks: Other than an ego slap-down, I can’t think of one.

Categories: faq's, How to Grow, tomatoes

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How to Prevent Cross Pollination of Corn

how to prevent cross pollination of corn

A wee bit of crossing.

Corn silks get pollen on them that is carried by the wind from the tassels of corn in the area. It may be from the same plant or from plants a distance away.

If you are growing multiple kinds of corn, or a nearby neighbor has plants, you may want to insure you get what you expect.
There are a few ways to do this.

If it is just you growing more than one variety, time the seeding so that they don’t mature at the same time. If both varieties mature at 90 days, for example, plant them about 2-3 weeks apart.
If one variety matures at 80 days and the other at 100, it is safe to plant them at the same time.

If you have a lot of land, you can simply plant them apart. I have read they need to be anywhere from 150 ft. to a mile apart. The corn in the picture above were about 6 ft. apart and generally upwind from a red dry corn. You can see there was a little cross pollination on the ear to the right, but it did take place.

If you are really into maintaining your seed supply to be true by preventing cross pollination, watch this video to learn how.
We’re going to do this with our glass gem corn, to keep the seeds pure. There is a bed of dry corn about 120 ft. away, and we want to be sure they don’t cross.

And, well… also because nerdy stuff like this is fun.

Categories: corn, techniques

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12 Do’s & Do Not’s of Growing Peppers

Here they come!

Here they come!

Like their cousins the tomatoes, peppers are a very popular home garden crop.
They have similar needs and wants, but not the same.
Here are some hints to growing peppers that we have learned over the years:

Whether you grow sweet, hot, or both:

Don’t
Plant them as deep as tomatoes.
You can put the plant in a little deeper than its pot, and even hill up a bit around the stem. Peppers don’t want to go in any deeper than that.

Don’t
Buy transplants with buds on them, if you can help it. Like tomatoes, it is better to let them get their roots established before they begin giving birth.

Do
Pinch any buds off if you have them. We continue to pinch for about 2 weeks after transplanting. Likewise,

Don’t
Wait for those first few peppers to get to their mature color. Whether you are looking to get a red, yellow, orange or even purple pepper, picking the first few while they are still green encourages the plants to produce more.
It is the same survival principle at work as when you pinch off flowers. The plant will put more effort into what it is doing, and you will be rewarded with a greater abundance.

Do
Place your plants closer together than is usually recommended. Some gardeners may argue this point, but I learned this from my Dad who has been gardening for about 85 years and still going strong. Planting them 8-12 inches apart rather than 12-18 helps them to not need support, and lets them protect each other from strong wind gusts.

Don’t
Over fertilize. Too much nitrogen, the first number listed on a bag of fertilizer, will make your plants look awesome. It will also make your harvest suffer. Look for an equal balance of numbers, like a 10-10-10 fertilizer or horse manure. You can also have your soil tested to see what it needs specifically if you want.

Don’t
Plant your sweets and hots too close together. Generally peppers are pollinated by wind, either a breeze or the beating of bugs’ wings. These bugs can also get some pollen on their little bodies when they visit the pepper flowers, and spread that around from one plant to another.
Of course, this only affects the seeds. But the seeds of hot peppers are hot, which can make even a sweet pepper spicier. This kind of cross pollination is unusual, but we did see it happen when our hots and sweets were right next to each other.

Do
Lightly run your hand across the tops of your plants, especially if pollination is low. This will act like a breeze to spread that pollen about.

Do
Give them enough water, about an inch a week. Using a rain gauge makes this easy to do. Mulch, if you don’t have a problem with voles, is also a good way to insure they don’t get too thirsty.

Don’t
Plant peppers where their cousins were last year or even 2 years if you had pests or disease issues; this includes tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes.

Do
Companion plant to save space or to benefit one another. Like tomatoes, peppers like to be around carrots and their cousin parsley, and with basil. These plants easily fill in the unused space between pepper plants. Just be sure to water accordingly.

And finally, Don’t
Let those peppers go to waste. If you have more than you can handle, just wash them off, dry and toss in the freezer whole. This will make your sweets a bit sweeter, and your hots even hotter when they thaw. Both types of peppers can also be roasted. Mmmm… Hot peppers can easily be stored by using a needle and thread to string them together, and hang to dry. This ‘rista’ is also a simple way to grab what you need when adding a little heat to your dishes.

More important than any other advice, have fun when you garden.
Guidelines are wonderful, but find what works best for you in your garden.
And enjoy!

Here’s an example of a good rain gauge:

The Do’s and Do Not’s of Tomatoes

Categories: peppers

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How to Grow Bigger Onions

The leftovers.

The leftovers.

A Facebook friend in Gardenaholics Anonymous mentioned that Dixondale Farms in Texas grows great onion and leek plants, and in fact they also sell those same plants to the supplier I had been using.

Not only do they have a better selection, we saved $20 on 6 bunches; that is a big price difference.

The plants arrived healthy and the bunches were quite generous. Also in the box were some pretty interesting planting directions that can help grow bigger onions.

Two trenches.

Two trenches.

Basically, you dig a trench 4″ deep and wide, about 6″ away from where your onions will be planted. To this add 1/2 cup of a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous for every 10 ft. of row.
The middle number on a bag of soil amendment represents phosphorus, so we used this bone meal.

The ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium.

The ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium.

Then you plant your onions 1″ deep and 4″ apart.
Water them in well.

Now I admit we are used to planting this close together, but never this shallow.
It actually felt a little uncomfortable, as if it would do them harm.
And we did cheat just a bit and made double rows, planting in a zig-zag fashion to give them those 4″ of growing space.

Ta da!

Ta da!

But we are basically going to go with what the experts suggest, and see if we get bigger bulbs than in previous years. They were quite adamant about the depth, as any deeper will “inhibit their ability to bulb.”
There is more information in the pamphlet as well, and we’ll look at those instructions as the season progresses.

We put in 100 Copra onions, as these are really wonderful for storing, lasting up to a year.
Fifty Red Zeppelin onions can be stored for 6-8 months, but will most likely be eaten before that.

Another 25 each of Walla Walla and Sterling, all together should keep us in onions for about a year.

In a few months we will start to see the results, and we’ll give you an update.
In the meantime, you can check out their site and even download their planting guides here.

Not only did we save quite a bit of money, there are plenty of onions leftover for my daughter and son-in-law to plant.

Apparently Sprout’s tastes lean towards garlic and onions, and we are more than happy to comply.

Categories: How to Grow, onions & leeks, saving money & time, The Experiments

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