Archive for vegetable

Cole Crops: The Goldilocks of Vegetables

Posted in gardening with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by planthoarder

Broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi are not the easiest vegetables for spring growing in Wisconsin. They’re a bit fussy. Wisconsin’s climate is a bit, how can I say this politely, unpredictable. Before cole crops have four or so leaves, they don’t mind a little nip in the air, though they can’t take a hard frost. After that they want to grow over a nice climate controlled summer, as if they had air conditioning for days over 75 degrees F (20 C) and central heating for days under 50 degrees (10 C). Too hot and they languish, too cold while they’re yourng and they’ll bolt or button (sounds cute, but it isn’t). Once they reach maturity, they are tough as nails and love the cold, in fact harvest is at its best after a frost or two, until then what they do not want is stress. Wimps.

Wisconsin in the spring, has terrible temperature swings. Part of me knew better than to even try, but oddly the other part seems to win more often than not. I started out with high hopes, planting the seeds indoors and expecting them to sprout in a week or two, but no, they were in a hurry. Now they’re ahead of schedule like guests who come early to find you still mopping up. They need to go out regardless of the forecast (the cole crops, not the guests). There are a couple of things to be done to moderate the temperature. They’ll start out with floating row cover to capture a few extra degrees of heat until temperatures get too warm. An added benefit is the protection it will offer from the cabbage whites. Yes, I saw one yesterday.

My love claims the weather forecasters expect a cool summer. I’ll do my best to baby them with the even moisture and nitrogen they like, and hope they reward me with a generous bounty or at least a few respectable meals. If not, well, I’ll bite back my pride and remember, there’s always the fall.

The Enduring Optimism of a Gardener

Posted in gardening with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by planthoarder

We can’t help it, can we?  Every spring someone should tie us to the mast so we don’t succumb to nature’s siren song, buying one more plant, one more seed packet offering something delicious for the eyes, nose, or taste buds. It doesn’t matter how hard it will be to find the time to prepare the bed, or a spot to squeeze our precious new flower. It doesn’t matter that last year the deer ate our strawberries, leaves and all, just as they were starting to ripen, or that the slugs turned pretty leaves to Swiss cheese. This year…ah, this year…

This year spring has come early, or maybe it’s summer. Should we try to plant lettuce, or will it bolt too soon? Should we simply wait until fall’s cooler temperatures for the plants we would normally plant in spring? Those warm days are being followed by frost warnings. The magnolia blooms are just daring Jack Frost to turn their pretty pink to brown. So far we’ve been lucky indeed.

The greenhouse has been open wide nearly every day since the brassica seedlings were put in, and some days they had to sit out in the shade, because the greenhouse was just too hot for the early vegetables. My father is wisely restraining himself from starting his tomato seedlings, but I finally succumbed. I even bought seed for a slightly longer season watermelon. I know, I know, an early start doesn’t mean winter won’t sneak up on us early as well, but to be a gardener is to be optimistic. How else could we believe that despite the hungry crowd waiting in the wings to take our place at the table, we’ll be the ones to reap what we’ve sown?

This year I’m finally trying to grow a dry bean I had given up on. It takes a longer season to mature than we have here, so hope has been hard to find. The seed is eight years old, quite geriatric for bean seed, but it won’t get better for waiting so this is the year. My expectations are low, but a germ of hope remains. What can I say? I’m a gardener.



Posted in gardening with tags , , on February 10, 2012 by planthoarder

Catalogs have been piling up since the holidays, marked up with highlighter in the hopes of getting at least a few ordered before spring. Sadly I don’t have hoards of cash and eager servants to do my bidding, so my new acquisitions are modest to say the least. In fact, I hit a big box store for most of my vegetable seed this year from their Burpee rack. Nothing exotic, unless you count daikon radishes, ‘Baby Choi,”Pinton Long’ eggplant, or ‘Genovese’ basil. There’s ‘Green Ice’ lettuce and ‘Burpee’s Rhubarb Chard,’ for greens and ‘Kentucky Wonder’ pole beans, ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots, and zucchini, for my other veggies, and flat leafed parsley to add a little extra zing. Where are the tomatoes and sweet corn, you may ask, and I may answer: Most of my tomato seed is saved from last year, and I am surrounded by corn fields that my farmer neighbor allows us to put a tiny dent in come August.

One tomato variety I did get was part of my order to Thompson & Morgan, ‘Legend.’ Supposedly, it is resistant to blight. Early Blight was my bane last year, defoliating the bottoms of the plants as they grew over the concrete reinforcing wire cages meant to contain their exuberance. ‘Gold Medal’ hardly offered a fruit, but ‘Celebrity,’ ‘Jetstar,’ and ‘Early Girl’ made up for it’s stinginess. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wipe up all this drool from fantasizing about summer tomatoes.