November 22, 2011

Hard Freezes and Over Wintering Lettuce and Fava Broad Beans

Grand Rapids and Cimmaron volunteer lettuces.
We have had two hard freezes in our area last week with the temperature getting down to the low 20's Fahrenheit. The volunteer melons, beans, and tomatoes have bit the dust but the volunteer lettuces of the Grand Rapids and Cimmaron varieties are still going strong and are filling their bed out nicely. It has been raining a lot lately and the weather has warmed to the 50's and 60's during the day. Which means the plants that love the cool weather are growing quickly in the grey wet wintry days.

Broad Windsor fava bean plant.
The Broad Windsor fava beans are growing beautifully. They are already 6-8 inches tall with most of them branching out and forming multiple stems. The fava bean plants should end up 3 feet tall at their tallest. I enjoy seeing the garden covered in fall leaves. It reminds me that despite the cold dreariness of winter that things can still grow and flourish in the cold earth.

Freshly tilled ground with mulch spread over top.
New ground has been tilled. We have extended the garden by more than twice its length and spread mulch over the surface which should break down over the winter months and then will be rototilled in for spring planting. I plan on storing and saving a lot more food by either canning or freezing the surplus. Most of my neighbors in Idaho tried to preserve at least 4 years worth of food by canning, freezing, and drying. My main food crops will be tomatoes for sauce and salsa, green beans, corn, dried beans, summer and winter squash, and peppers.

I have not been able to grow large amounts of cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini, or summer squash in western Kentucky. The heat and humid may play a part, but truth be told I have never seen so many insects in my life as they have in this area. The stem borers, Japanese beetles, and squash bugs can be just awful. This year I am going to try interplanting marigold flowers, nasturtium, dill, basil, and cilantro in hopes of deterring the insect pests from the vegetables.

Tomatoes, okra, peppers, green beans, and sweet potatoes do simply wonderfully in this climate. Japanese beetles do seem to love the okra and green beans and end up consuming a great deal of the plants foliage, but the plants always seem to pull through and produce in large quantities. I have heard of people pickling, canning and drying okra. Now, the idea of drying okra is somewhat alluring but the high humidity in this area curtails some of my enthusiasm. Hmmm.

November 8, 2011

Over Wintering Broad Windsor Fava Beans

Something is amiss. Some creature is nibbling on the fava bean plants.
More Broad Windsor fava bean damage by an unknown assailant.
Oh how lovely. The delicately veined thick succulent leaves.
Already branching out reaching for the sun.
The Broad Windsor fava beans are growing fairly quickly in the cool mild weather. In just two and a half weeks the plants are already branching out and forming multiple stems. They are such pretty plants with their thick leaves and delicate colors. Fava beans are supposed to get four to five feet tall and they say 10-20 plants per person should be enough to supply you with tender tips that can be eaten like spinach, young pods eaten like green beans, young beans can be quickly boiled for 3-5 minutes and eaten like spring peas, and the old beans can be dried and saved for winter soups and stews.

I'm hoping the broad beans were planted late enough to ensure flowering in early spring when insect pollinators are around. Otherwise I might have to resort to hand pollinating with a q-tip.

November 7, 2011

Self-Sowed Lettuces in the Fall Garden

The chartreuse Grand Rapids lettuce.

Left: Cimmaron red romaine lettuce. Right: Grand Rapids lettuce.
The self-sowed lettuces sprouted just four weeks ago, after the garden was rototilled in preparation for the fall garden. The plants are starting to fill out nicely and gain some size. The soil has been too wet from the fall rains to do any hoeing, which is the excuse I'm using for only half heartedly pulling weeds.

I'm looking forward to a winter with lettuces, Swiss chard, beets, and fava beans from the garden. The only vegetables I've ever tried to over winter have been leeks which are wonderfully care free even in the harshest of winters.

November 6, 2011

Detroit Beets and Swiss Chard

Left: the lovely beets trimmed in crimson. Right: the courageous Swiss Chard.
A carpet of Swiss chard seedlings.
The Detroit beets and Swiss chard were broadcast seeded about four weeks ago and they are just starting to get their true leaves. It seems like it took forever for the seeds to sprout, about 2 weeks for both the beets and the Swiss chard, and it seems to be taking forever for the plants to grow.

Broadcast seeding is an easy way to plant seeds that are small and can taking a little crowding. I just sprinkle the seeds over a patch of loose soil and then rake the soil lightly with the tines going less than an inch deep and making short strokes in a crossing X pattern that goes in opposite directions. Just try to get a somewhat even coverage over the whole bed. This technique seems to work well and usually there's just a few seeds that are left uncovered which I push into the soil.

Beets have a larger seed that is actually made up of a group of 3-5 seeds. I plant the beet seeds further apart then the recommended 2-3 inches by just putting down less seed when broadcasting so I don't have to thin the seedlings. Beets have an earthy warm flavor that is lovely in soups and wonderful as a pickle.

Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable whose growing pattern is similar to bok choy with thick succulent stems and nice large green leaves, although Swiss chard has thinner stems and can withstand hot weather. Hopefully the plants will over winter without any protection.

November 5, 2011

Fall Radishes Self-Sowed

White Icicle, French Breakfast, and Cherry Belle radishes in a tender bed of grass.

The garden was tilled in October and in just four weeks the self-sowed radishes have sized up to gargantuan size with the cooling weather. The white radish is of the White Icicle type which has grown amazingly huge to nine inches in just a few weeks, the light green shoulders were growing above soil level. The French Breakfast radish is five inches long and the larger Cherry Belle radish is two inches in diameter. With the colder weather the normally red radishes have turned to a deep rich dark red that is close to the color of a Red Delicious apple. We haven't had a frost yet in western Kentucky, although the killing frost is forecasted for November 20th. Radishes must love the cool 60 degree Fahrenheit temperatures with nightly temps in the upper 30's.