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Archive for the ‘Vegetable Growing tips’ Category

Dear Veggie Lovers,

I’ve been meaning to write a post about winter gardening for a while, but it looks as though I’ve waited nearly too long. Though the days are still chilly, most of the snow in Wenatchee is gone, and as any good gardener knows, snow is the key to successful winter gardening.

In fact, it’s better to have snow than simply freezing temps. Last winter, the Wenatchee area saw severe cold snaps in November 2010 and February 2011 that damaged fruit trees at higher elevations.

Kale, collards, cabbage, and other traditionally cold-hearty crops also died in the home garden. All that was left to eat was the spinach!

But this year, we got enough snow cover during the coldest part of the winter — knock on wood — that helped most of the cold crops breeze right on through. Right now, we have kale, carrots, beets, leeks, and yes, even spinach out there thanks to the season’s earlier snow cover. Here’s how it looked in the home garden back on January 22nd, 2012:

Digging leeks from under the snow, Jan. 2012.

A good find! Leeks for leek-and-potato soup.

Covering the leeks back up with snow.

Digging carrots from under the snow and mulch, January 2012.

A few nice carrots for a small bit of work and lots of pre-planning.

With careful preparation and mother nature’s cooperation, home gardeners can basically “store” their winter crops right out in the field, and dig them up when needed.

And boy are they yummy! Tonight, we had beetroot casserole for dinner – a very filling meal from a Russian cookbook called:

The Food and Cooking of Russia by U.K. author, Lesley Chamberlain

I highly recommend the dish if you happen to like beets. The intersection of beet flavors with sour cream and lemon is distinctly Russian, and makes one want to reach for the vodka bottle on a cold winter’s night.

Dancing not included. 🙂

But on a more serious note, more interest in winter gardening is good for local growers and veggie lovers too. All across the country (do a Google search and you’ll be amazed at what you find) winter’s farmers markets are gaining in popularity. Here’s a recent article on the All You Can Eat blog at the Seattle Times on the subject.

I say, if Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee can do it, then certainly Wenatchee and the surrounding areas can as well, can’t they?

Then everybody could enjoy some fresh beet root all winter long!

Happy eating.

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Well, for some gardening is an escape, but today we’re talking about scapes. Yes, scapes.

Garlic scapes are the flowering end of the hardneck garlic bulb. They form lovely circular or figure-eight curly tops that look like this:

Garlic scape

It’s necessary to trim the scapes off the garlic plant so that the energy of the plant doesn’t get diverted from its main goal – forming a nice, big garlic bulb down in the earth. We trimmed ours at home this weekend, but we didn’t throw them away.

What do you do with them? Well, eat them of course!

Much like the green onion is the milder version of its cousin, the large white onion, garlic scapes are the milder form of garlic itself – sort of a garlicky green bean, if you will.

You can eat them raw and they won’t bother your stomach. Or, you can cook them in a variety of ways. Here’s a recipe for garlic scape pesto, which sounds oh-so-yummy! If you Google for recipes for garlic scapes however, keep in mind it might just come up garlic whistle recipes. It’s the same thing.

Some prefer to whistle while they work!

Happy eating!

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Tomatoes in the green house

The calendar date today is May 15th, which means it is *officially* time to plant your tomatoes, especially if you have already hardened them off.

In addition, it’s a good idea to have already subjected your tomato plants to several hours a day of a fan playing over them, so they can get used to wind.

Though the nighttime temps for Wenatchee hover between 41 and 44 degrees this week, that’s fine. While tomatoes are a tropical plant they are pretty tough, and will tolerate a bit of mistreatment and still produce well – some say they’ll produce better if you beat ’em up a little!

A word of caution: Just because it’s tomato planting time, don’t get all excited and plant out your peppers too.

Peppers in the green house

Peppers aren’t as forgiving as tomatoes and they don’t like nights under 50 degrees. So, keep those inside a couple more weeks and keep watching the weather forecast!

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Chitting, by any other name, could just be called “sprouting.” So why don’t they say what they mean?

I guess that’s “farmer talk” for you.

Chitting, is essentially sprouting of potatoes and other tubers to get them ready to plant. Here are some spuds chitting away in our office:

chitting

Lovely, aren’t they? These are Kennebec potatoes, btw. They will make the best mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten! But back to my earlier point…

Why, you might ask, does one chit potatoes, and more importantly, how does this work?

Well, you know that potatoes have EYES, but they don’t actually see (maybe they need glasses, like yours truly!) with them. They grow with them. Rather, the buds of the potato plant grow right where the EYES are located.  Some of those buds will turn into little green shoots (not quite the same as those elusive “green shoots” of economy they keep talking about) that, when you plant the potato, will become stems. Then the stems add leaves, and grow, grow, grow, right up out of the soil, forming the foliage part of the plant.

Here’s a shot of potato plants in our home garden from last year:

Potato rows June, 2010 Davis Farm

As the green part grows, you hill, hill, hill the soil and straw up around it – like a nice warm earthy blanket – and that’s where the potatoes form on the shoots that you never see ’cause they’re under the ground.

Now, you can sure plant a whole potato and it’ll grow, but chitting is a potato jump-start method that:

1. ensures you are planting a vigorous plant and not a “dud”

2. allows you to harvest an earlier crop

3. can help you potentially avoid disease getting to the plant before you can harvest your spuds

If you want, you can chit a potato at home, and once it sprouts, put it in an open black plastic garbage bag with some soil at the bottom. Water it, and be patient. As the green parts shoot up, add more soil to the bag, leaving some green at the top. Water some more, add more soil, and soon you will have a garbage bag full of soil with leaves sticking out the top!

It will look something like this:

Potatoes in a bag from EHow.com

Inside the bag, just like under the soil, potatoes are forming. At the end of the season, when the plants have turned brown and died off, rip open the bag and harvest your dinner!

Trust me, I’ve done this and it really works!

But at Flicker Farm, we do things on a slightly larger scale:

Dave planting red potatoes at Flicker Farm, May 6th 2011.

I can’t wait for the new red potatoes and my friend, the Kennebec, to be ready to eat. I don’t know about you, but I could really go for some curried potatoes about now!

Happy eating.

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Is it just us, or does the weather make you want to curl up with a cuppa tea and a good book and take your chances with falling asleep?

For now,  it looks as though RAIN is the operative word in this rather cool spring forecast, which means two things.

1. Things are growing slowly outside – as are the newly sown spinach rows at Flicker Farm.

Spinach beds at Flicker Farm

2. But cold-weather crops will do better this spring than warm weather ones. Think like a duck, or, a vegetable that a duck might eat, and you’ve got the picture. Crops that love cooler temps include:

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Mustard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Chinese Cabbage

In short, most of the Brassicas will head up nicely, given enough sunlight and a little bit of warmth at night so they don’t freeze out.

Tomatoes? Peppers? Not yet…..those heat-loving plans won’t even germinate with a soil temp this low. I know people want them to, but they will simply refuse!

For now, all I can say is think *cold* thoughts if you want lettuce, and *warm* thoughts if you want those tomatoes to hurry up for your BLT’s.

And keep that coat handy – winter isn’t over yet!

 

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