7 February 2014, by gj
Here comes the rhubarb.
Although many herbs and fruits will bear for many years, most gardeners grow vegetables as annuals. There are some exceptions that can, depending on your climate of course, be harvested for years to come.
Perennials are different than self-seeding annuals, but for the topic at hand we are grouping them together.
Here in Zone 5/6 we can count on:
1. Lovage is technically considered an herb, but we list it here because it is used as a vegetable. The leaves particularly and the stems as well can be used in place of celery. Be sure you have enough room before you plant it, as lovage can easily grow 3 ft. wide and over 6 ft. tall.
2. Good King Henry is a new plant for our garden this year. It is reputed to taste much like asparagus, but with a longer harvest period. Eat the leaves raw or steamed. Give it a space of its own, as it will reseed with abandon.
3. Horseradish can easily be grown from a root purchased at your local market. It can be quite invasive, so we recommend planting it in a pot that sits on top of a rock slate, as the tiny roots will do their best to get out. Be forewarned, fresh horseradish packs an amazing punch.
4. Jerusalem Artichokes aka Sunchokes are as delightful to see grow as they are to eat. A relative of sunflowers, their blooms are similar but smaller. Even better, they smell like chocolate. Harvest the roots after the flowers fall over. Enjoy like a water chestnut or as a potato substitute.
Mmm… smells like chocolate.
5. Radicchio aka Italian Dandelion is a relative of what many consider to be an invasive weed. “You’re planting what?” was my husband Mandolin Jones’ reaction when I mentioned ‘dandelion’ but he was okay with ‘radicchio’. According to Art, the master gardener from Baker Creek, we should get 2 years of harvest here in Zone 5/6. So we intend to replant again in year two and see what happens. Some perennials last longer than others.
6. Rhubarb is one of the first veggies to pop through the soil in spring. It will last basically forever, as long as it is cared for. When you see it is looking overcrowded, dig some of the roots up and share. We found out the hard way that the best thing to do with dug roots is to pot them up for a year before transplanting. Live, garden, and learn.
7. Asparagus is probably the best known perennial vegetable. Harvest lightly after the first year, a little more the second, then have at it afterwards. We have heard of asparagus beds still thriving after 20 years.
8. Walking Onions aka Perennial Onions have a few other common names as well. They reproduce themselves by ‘walking’, that is, bending a stem over and dropping little bulbules or topsets on the soil. Use like scallions.
9. New Zealand Spinach is not actually a spinach, but a wonderful self reseeding substitute. Be sure to plant it in a relatively weed free area and let it have fun.
10. Garlic is one plant we never thought of as a perennial. A coworker discovered this by accident, after neglecting her garden one year. Her garlic also produced little topsets and replanted itself. It has been 3 years now and she continues to get garlic without ever planting more. Not just greens, but normal sized cloves. You know we will be trying this!
Walking onion preparing to replant itself.
NOTE: Before planting any perennials, be sure they will grow in your area and not be invasive.
Specific growing information on many of these edibles can be found on the list to the right.
Categories: gardening, perennials
26 January 2014, by gj
This is the final post in this series, as we come to the present.
It was in 2010 that we made the garden smile, with a simple truckload of mushroom soil. If ever we are asked to recommend one soil amendment, that would be it.
Every single part of the garden thrived and the larder was overflowing with filled canning jars. It was only recently that the last jar was opened.
2011, from memory.
Likewise the abundance continued into the following year. We were starting to see more of a problem with critters, though; attracted by all the food I guess.
This was part of the inspiration, along with the difficulties we know more urban gardeners face, that led to a design for a garden system.
The following winter was extremely mild with an early spring, and the squirrels in particular were everywhere. Mandolin Jones started referring to the garden as the ‘Squirrel Buffet‘.
Yeah, it was that bad.
As if that was not enough the weeds were also quite prolific.
This must be what it is like to live in a warmer region.
The first year.
We were armed though. With the garden design built, we were able to protect most of what we grew.
In the roadside garden 1 of every 5 tomatoes was being bitten by squirrels, in spite of the deterrents we used.
In the new system all were safe.
In 2013 the squirrels were not as bad but the weeds were worse in the roadside garden. The entire front row was covered in a think layer of newspaper and landscaping fabric, and filled with pots of herbs.
That worked very well to keep the weeds out, and container plants are easier to take care of when they are grouped together.
More perennials were added that year, including a number of fruit trees and berry canes. We got our first serious harvest of cranberries too.
The Jones’ Garden System
Most of the experimentation took place closer to the house.
With the garden design, now being referred to as the Jones’ Garden System, we were able to extend our harvest by 3 weeks on each end of the season.
It sported the first ripe tomato in the area, and didn’t lose a single one to critters. The beans were also producing sooner, and continued to be harvested longer into the fall.
The vertical aspect also did quite well, and was so much fun having squash and melons growing up and out the top. It was so neat to see the fruit hanging down and growing completely free of pests.
There were hardly any weeds to pull either.
It was so much easier in fact that we are now in the process of turning the roadside garden over primarily to perennials. We will still need to protect them from critters of course, but it won’t be as much of an issue.
I’m thinkin’ we’re going to have extra time on our hands; time well spent canning.
Categories: Addiction, gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses
24 January 2014, by gj
1. “The best way to plant peppers is too close together.” was a tip my father taught me. As long as they have enough air about them, planting them closer than normally recommended lets them help support each other. We plants ours 8-10″ apart for sweet bells, closer than the normally recommended 12-18″.
2. Contrary to what others may tell you, you can save the seeds from hybrid plants. What you get may be different than the parent plant, but in many cases it doesn’t matter. So go ahead and try a few tomato seeds from the one you got at the market. We got a delicious pink tomato that way one year.
3. The peak time to pick herbs is first thing in the morning. This is when they have the best flavor.
4. The best way to eat cherry tomatoes is straight from the garden while they are still warm. Yum! However, be careful eating any vegetable before washing it first, especially anything that developed on or close to the soil.
5. One of the best tips we’ve heard was about staking Tomatoes. Whereas wire can burn the stems, and twine can also cause damage, using pieces of old pantyhose is ideal. The hose ‘gives’ with the plant just enough, and heck the price is right! We have also tried it on pole beans and cucumbers and it worked well there too.
6. Ever hear of the Three Sisters of the Fields? They are corn, squash and beans growing together. The beans grow up the corn and the squash grows at the base of the corn, providing each other with necessary nutrients as well as discouraging little varmints (raccoons in particular) from nibblin’ the corn. Traditionally, dry beans, field or popcorn, and winter squash were planted together, as they are all harvested at the end of the season.
7. Basil plants do well when planted among tomatoes. They are slower to bolt because the tomatoes give them some shade, and the basil adds a nice flavor to the tomatoes.
8. Think twice before planting, or plant out of the way of the rest of your garden: Horseradish, Mints including oregano, sweet marjoram, balms; in many climates they can be very invasive. Likewise many other perennials.
9. Got Seeds? If you have them left over from last year you can still use them. Seeds do lose some of their potency over time, so the germination rate will drop a bit, but toss ‘em in anyway. You may be surprised at the results!
10. Compost: The ultimate recycling. Don’t throw any meat products into your compost, and Heaven forbid, don’t throw in any root ends of the perennials mentioned above.
11. It is nice throw a few earthworms into your compost heap every so often though. They love it and you will benefit.
12. A few flowers in the vegetable garden help attract bees which promote fertilization of your plants. Nasturtiums and sunflowers are especially good for attracting bees, plus they are edible.
13. If you wish to go the other way, and plant a few vegetables in the flower garden, we would recommend squashes and gourds. This family of vegetables gets beautiful flowers (mostly also edible) and are comparatively easy to grow. There are also some peas and beans that do well and are quite pretty when trellised, Purple Bean Hyacinth comes to mind, though I don’t think it is edible. Scarlet Runner Bean has pretty red flowers. Some gardeners plant okra as an ornamental, the flowers are just that gorgeous.
14. Don’t handle bean plants when they are wet, it can spread disease.
15. The well-rounded garden will want to sport at least a showing of herbs. Lavender and sage are easy to contain perennials and quite prolific. Dill plants are tall, with delicate looking leaves and a wonderful fragrance.
Do you have a good garden tip? We would love to hear it. Please share it in the comment section below and thanks!
Categories: gardening, How to Grow
17 January 2014, by gj
It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.
Here are a few ideas we have found to help:
The garden notebook keeps growing.
- A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
- Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
- A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.
- We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh… there you are!
One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.
- Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
Some lessons are always learned the hard way.
What tips do you have for staying organized?
Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques
12 January 2014, by gj
In 2005 we started naming names; that is, we really concentrated on trying different varieties of the same veggie. The idea was to see if we had a preference, and in most cases we really didn’t.
We do prefer white eggplant to the traditional dark purple, but only for the uniformity of the slices.
It was also the year we first planted Amaranth, but we did not know it was edible.
That would be a few years yet.
We learned the hard way that hot peppers and sweet peppers can cross pollinate in 2006. Of course this only affects the seeds, but hot peppers seeds have heat. A few of the sweet peppers picked up some of that heat, and it made eating them real interesting.
We also added a cherry tree that year, but that would not last long.
A birdhouse gourd grew up from the compost, and as it vined it’s way up a nearby pine, it grabbed the little cherry tree and pulled it right out of the ground.
Unfortunately it was too late by the time we noticed.
Another expansion took place in 2007.
It had been 3 growing seasons since we tried to limit the garden until we finally gave in.
Actually, we did better than expected.
That year we learned you can grow strawberries underneath dwarf peach trees if you keep the fruit trees pruned to give the berries enough sun.
We also learned that year how easily corn will cross pollinate, even if they are not down wind from each other.
An experimental ‘Compost Garden’ was planted in 2008. The idea was to see how many volunteers we could get if we didn’t put a single seed in the ground, and only used our own compost.
It certainly did show how easy growing food can be.
We didn’t get nearly as much of a harvest, a few potatoes made it and late in the season we had a nice supple of green tomatoes. None of the squash produced more than 1 or 2 fruit, mainly because they came up later than what we planted elsewhere by seed.
But experimenting is fun, so it was all good.
Finally in 2009 we expanded just a wee bit more. We added some kiwi vines, which always looked wonderful but never produced. We also got smart with the potted herbs, and put them all together in a shadier area, which also made keeping them watered easier.
Our experiment that year was with dry beans. we purchased a bag of 15 assorted dry soup beans at the local market and planted them.
To play it safe, we planted them in amongst the corn. That way if any were pole types, we were covered.
It was a bit of a madhouse in that bed, but it worked well.
For the most part, that was the last time we bought dry bean seeds.
It was in the late fall of 2009 that this blog began.
Since then every year has been a combination of trying new veggies and cultivars, and more experiments.
A lot of that has been documented here, but there is one more thing that hasn’t.
Not to leave you hanging, but that will be the final post of this series.
Categories: Addiction, gardening
31 December 2013, by gj
We started out with about 8 resolutions for the upcoming garden season, and pared them down to three.
‘Be more organized’ and ‘keep better records’ have had enough time on the list already, either that will happen or it won’t.
‘Buy less seeds’- forgetaboutit.
Some other ridiculous expectations got scratched as well.
Let’s be serious.
After all, this is gardening- if it ain’t going to be fun, then it is a chore.
More of this.
So instead, and without further eloquence, we will:
1. Try not to expand, again.
They say when you are changing a behavior, you should never use the word ‘try’, it is weak and you should be more assertive.
Like we will not expand the garden.
But seriously, that is just dooming oneself to certain failure.
This year, though, we are looking at simplifying in certain ways; so rather than expand out like we have been, we are going to give in a bit and grow more vertically.
That will be a little easier physically, and involve less time as well.
More of these.
2. Garden with more perennials.
With some additional fruit trees, canes and brambles, we can assure ourselves and our family of a year’s supply of fruit; that is if we use more of the space in the roadside garden previously taken by annual edibles.
Last year we doubled our horseradish barrels, increased our rhubarb plants, and added an expanded area for walking onions.
We also added an additional sunchokes bed, somewhat by accident.
Hey, perhaps it was meant to be.
This year we want to incorporate some additional items, including Lovage, French Sorrel, Good King Henry- a plant related to spinach but eaten more like asparagus, Sea Kale and Ramps.
We are also looking into more pots of herbs.
The more the garden can grow itself, the better.
Yeah, let’s bring these back this year.
3. Add more flowers.
It was just a few years ago that most of our flower beds were lost during construction.
Now we have a wonderful front porch instead, but its time to take another look at building areas to feed the soul.
Years ago my Dad made a chart of what to plant, here in Zone 5/6, for a continual bloom spring to fall.
Surely that would work in many nearby zones as well.
That’s the kind of thing we post on the website, and we’ll get that up asap.
So that’s not too bad as far as resolutions go.
What are yours?
To all of you, here’s to a
Healthy- in both mind and body,
Wealthy- in love, happiness and a bountiful harvest,
and Wise- in mind and spirit, 2014!
~ the Jones
Categories: gardening, special posts
22 December 2013, by gj
It was four years after we moved to this house that the front, roadside garden really began.
This area is a knoll, mostly covered in weeds and gravel, that is at the center of the half-circle driveway.
Because it was already a bit higher level, it warms up faster. It also gets more sun, so was the perfect area to grow.
As big as it is, it did not take long for us to fill it with plants.
We used the fencing not only to keep the deer out, but to grow vertically as much as we could.
The back garden, compressed.
We still used the back garden, but over time the trees were growing tall and reducing the amount of sun this area received.
In 2002 we tried expanding sideways, along side the house and towards the front.
As much as I did not want to admit it, it was becoming too much garden for the amount of time we could put into it.
The back garden had one last hurrah in 2003.
The two older kids were not home as often at this point, so we didn’t need quite as much food.
We focused on variety rather than quantity that year, learning to grow more of what we prefer to eat.
The time was coming to stop expanding, and start gardening smarter.
And so it was in 2004 that we gave up the back garden.
We added a few dwarf fruit trees out front, some raspberry canes, and moved the strawberries to their new home.
The intention was to keep things simple from now on.
Guess how long that lasted.
Categories: Addiction, gardening
21 December 2013, by gj
Ready to go.
Many gardeners have already either ordered their seeds for the upcoming year, or at least made tentative plans.
Although we are still in the planning stage, there are a few things we
expect know we will be adding in this year:
1. Sugar beets
Concerns about our food supply combined with our efforts to be more self-sufficient have led us to look at growing sugar. White sugar beets have a higher sugar content than regular red beets, and can be dried and ground into a powdered sweetener.
This should be
interesting fun fun fun!
Our daughter in law and son gave us some of the abundant crop of these green beauties last summer, and we were hooked. The salsa verde that resulted is both a treat to the eyes as well as a wonderful topping to many dishes.
want need more from our own garden.
Scorzonera, or ‘black salsify, is a delightful root veggie that we have grown in the past, but we have never planted salsify.
We’re thinking a side-by-side taste comparison would be
a great way to find the difference between the two a neat way to spend an afternoon in the kitchen.
Prepping for 2014.
4. Parsley root
Up until a few weeks ago, we didn’t even know this existed.
Just think of the possibilities of a parsley-flavored root veggie.
This time next year we are looking forward to trying a
recipe few lot of recipes out.
5. Bitter melon
This is a veggie we had heard of, but never grew. The bitterness is mild and lends itself well to oriental dishes, which we
love eat almost daily.
Do we see a ‘fun in the kitchen’ theme here?
6. ‘Lunchbox’ sweet peppers
The plan here is to stuff these as they ripen and toss in the freezer for a quick winter snack or side dish.
No need to blanch, how easy is that?
If the crop is really abundant, we
might absolutely will try some pickled as well.
If it is good enough for Peter Piper, hey, it works for us too.
7. Strawberry spinach
This unusual veggie caught our attention in Baker Creek’s seed catalog.
If your spinach is going to bolt anyway, it may as well produce bright red edible berries.
The catalog describes the flavor as bland, but we’re thinking it should would be a
delight conversation piece in a tossed salad.
Technically, this is not new to our garden as we did grow both yellow and red a number of years ago.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know you can eat the grain it produces.
We just tasted that recently and it had wonderful flavor, not to mention lovely on the plate.
It is considered a highly nutritious ‘pseudo-grain’ and will be
a good one to grow for our health another food we can play with in the kitchen.
Is it ever enough?
Of course we may very well end up with other veggies we haven’t planned on, as there is always something new out there to find.
And isn’t that just a part of the wonderful
hobby habit called Gardening?
Categories: gardening, jonesen'
14 December 2013, by gj
Fresh salad all winter.
You don’t need a hydroponic growing system to have fresh homegrown food even as the snow falls.
Some vegetables need less light than others, some do not need to be pollinated, and others don’t need the heat of summer.
Pretty versatile and undemanding, greens are easy to grow indoors and do not require much space or light. Since they are a ‘cut and come again’ crop, you can harvest what you need all winter long.
A kitchen window sill is a common place to find a few herbs growing. Since many grow like weeds, they are tough enough to have indoors.
Basil may be a little finicky, but others herbs like parsley are easy to have fresh all winter. Note that although dill can grow indoors, it can get pretty tall. Be sure to keep it pinched back for a more compact, bushier plant.
Add a few radishes.
Talk about fast and easy and radishes come straight to mind. The more compact varieties need very little room, and can be ready to enjoy in just a few weeks.
You can tuck a few garlic cloves in with your houseplants and use the tops for a fresh garlic taste throughout the off season. Keep them moist until they sprout, then just harvest the tops sparingly as they grow.
As another cool-weather crop, peas don’t need long warm days to grow. They pollinate themselves, so that is also not an issue.
Vining or pole type peas, as many varieties are, can be problematic indoors. Unless of course you have room for an 8 ft. tall plant.
Instead choose a bush variety, or as is the case with this cultivar from Agway, a pole type that only gets to be about 3 ft. high.
The final touch.
These are just a few of the plants that you can grow indoors because they do not need to be pollinated and require less light and heat.
Take a look at any seed catalog for more ideas, depending on how much room and time you have to dedicate to an indoor garden.
Now I must admit that other than the garlic greens, we have gotten away from growing indoors over the last few years.
Not for any particular reason.
After writing this post by request, our interest has been renewed.
So all we need to do is head out to the shed for a few planters and potting soil and we’ll be good to go.
After we put on our snow boots, that is.
Categories: extending the season, gardening, How to Grow
8 December 2013, by gj
1999 was an interesting year.
Many people were Y2K concerned and the local Farm and Garden stores were selling out of tomatoes. People were growing food that had never done it before, it was great.
The weather, not so much.
Yep, I remember that.
The mild winter led to an increased population of squirrels, rats, mice and rabbits- none of which one wants to find in the garden.
Add to that a summer that ended as an emergency drought situation, and things got worse.
Not only were the plants at risk, but the rodents started moving towards the waterways, which would be good, except the snakes followed them.
There actually came a point where we had to be careful where we stepped.
Fortunately for the garden we were never restricted as far as watering it.
We did learn about reclaiming water, and were as conservative as possible.
Expanding in the back.
Of course that didn’t stop us from expanding the garden once again.
More blueberry bushes, an asparagus bed, more potted plants, and a new bed running up the middle. There was enough room to move the wheelbarrow between beds, but that was about it.
Even SaveTheWorld got in on the gardening by planting some flowers out in the front of the house.
Which led to a big change in 2000.
Expanding to the front.
So began the frontyard garden.
At first it was merely a few fruit trees…
then squash plants, hot peppers and some more potted herbs.
Baby corn plants aren’t too intrusive, right?
All the while we still found some ways to get more from the backyard.
More blueberry bushes, more potatoes, more of everything.
Do we see a pattern here?
And we continued to learn as well.
It was in 2000 they we got serious about expanding the season here in Zone 5/6 as much as possible, by succession planting and through the use of cold frames.
For that we needed to also learn how to start many of our plants indoors.
As the millennium came, the garden began to take over.
Read part 1 here.
Categories: Addiction, gardening