How to Grow

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.”

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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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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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