September 28, 2015

Garden Share Collective: Seeding a Winter Vegetable Garden

Asparagus starting to change color signaling autumn, the asparagus was started from seed April/May of this year.
In the United States most of us are well into fall/autumn. I really wanted to do a big fall garden this year which means lots of direct seeding.

For the month of September I have been direct seeding in the garden:
  • radish 
  • daikon 
  • turnip 
  • beet
  • sprouting broccoli
  • sprouting turnip
  • spinach
  • chicory
  • radicchio
  • and lots and lots of carrots.
I love growing vegetables from seed. The whole process of plants popping out of the soil and watching them develop through their life cycle. But I love direct seeding so much, just sprinkle some seeds, a little dirt, and some water and you are done. Water once a day till the seedlings are up and you are well on your way.

Don't get me wrong. I like starting tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and broccoli indoors in seed starting trays but it's so much more work. Spritzing the soil twice a day with a spray bottle till the seeds germinate. Schlepping the seedling trays outside when its warm and inside on frosty nights, while still watering everyday. And then planting the 50 tomato plants, the 30 peppers or eggplants which takes days. Just thinking about it makes my back hurt.

I try to make the indoor seed starting as painless as possible by giving tomatoes only 4 weeks to grow and peppers and eggplants maybe 6 weeks before planting them outside. The seeds are started in trays, once they germinate they're pricked out and planted individually into larger containers. If it's remotely warm outside they immediately get set out, even before the seeds have sprouted, on a table protected from cold winds by a full privacy fence where they get 10-12 hours of full sun. Supposedly some peppers need light to help them germinate. When frost threatens they are brought inside at night (usually by a husband because I work late into the wee hours of the morning).

Plans for October:
  • Finish digging out the other half of the garden so planting can be finished.
  • Direct seed lettuce, fennel, kale, Asian greens, and garlic.
  • Direct seed even more carrot, beet, turnip, and spinach.

Radishes in the front bulbing up and soon to be removed to give room to the growing carrots and spinach. Turnips and kohlrabi growing well in the bed behind the radishes.
Lots of different things growing in this bed like sprouting broccoli, sprouting, turnip, carrot, beet, turnip, spinach, chicory, and radicchio.
Newly sprouted carrots.
Beets just forming their true leaves.
And spinach growing well.
Corno di Toro sweet peppers.
The mild to medium spicy Pablano peppers did very well this year.
This little Shishito sweet pepper made lots of peppers and is still full of blossoms, although it's starting to die back with cool weather.
It was a terrible year for tomatoes and eggplants which were in beds behind the peppers but have recently been cleared out. Flooding and lots of big rain storms in early summer battered and bruised the green tomatoes so when they started ripening they rotted on the vine. The excess water also caused the flea beetle population to explode which decimated the eggplants.

Hopefully next year will be better.

September 23, 2015

On Carrots and Juicing

My husband and I want to get back into juicing vegetables. Normally we juice a mixture of carrots, apple, and celery together. Just a single glass of fresh vegetable juice a day makes a world of difference in mental acuity, reflex speed, and just a wonderfully heightened sense of being in your body and a general physicality.

I'm very much in my head most of the time but the rush of vitamins seems to increase the senses and really brings the world into sharp focus.

Part of the reason juicing tends to come in and out of our lives is because of the waste of pulp that juicing leaves behind. All the fiber and apple peelings that juicing inherently creates which is kind of a mental turnoff. There's only so much soups and baking and feeding to the dog along with rice that a person can do with the vegetable pulp.

Much more often we tended to do fruit smoothies: strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, oranges, etc. all blended together with soy milk in the blender. But once we had a baby that completely stopped. I've been making tons of baby food in that blender and using it for fruit smoothies seems so... Ugh. I don't want to. You can't make me.

Plus with fruit smoothies you don't get that sharpness, although you do get a sugar high but with all that fiber you're consuming there's no hard sugar crash.

But the baby is starting to get away from pureed baby foods and just eating what we normally eat. So. Hmmm. Juicing and fruit smoothies are starting to sound enticing again.

So, in the garden I've been planting carrots. Tons and tons of carrots. In preparation for juicing. To be honest I've just ordered more carrot seeds so I can plant even more carrots.  If I could grow celery, I would because then I know what's in it and what's not in it.

September 20, 2015

An Early Fall Vegetable Garden in September

The bed on the left has carrots, radishes, and newly sprouted spinach. On the right is the kohlrabi, turnip and daikon radish bed.
Carrots and radishes intermingling, these were seeded on August 27th.
Where the carrots didn't come up, spinach was seeded amongst the already growing radishes on September 14th.
Kohlrabi planted September 5th are forming their first true leaves.
Shogoin turnips are leafing up well, planted August 27th.
 Ta Mei Hwa daikon radishes growing quickly, seeded September 5th.
This bed was newly seeded September 14th with spinach, chicory, radicchio, sima di rapa, cavolo broccolo, beet, turnip, and carrot.
Beet seedlings with their pretty red stems.
Teton spinach came up great but there is no hide nor hair of Harmony spinach to be seen.

We've been having some beautiful fall weather in western Kentucky. Lots of sunny days in the 70s and 80s (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) and today it rained for the first time in forever, a nice drizzle that went on for a couple hours. Now we are enjoying the humid aftereffects.

The fall garden is doing wonderfully. Although the directly seeded radishes are slow to bulb up, it's probably too warm for them but they'll need to come out in a week or two to make room for the carrots that are sharing the same space. In the beds where the carrots didn't come up due to ancient seeds, I've seeded some spinach which are already starting to emerge. Yay spinach. And yay to no slugs in the new garden.

I still haven't cleared out the tomato and pepper beds. Which will need to happen soon if I want to get some garlic, lettuce, and fava/broad beans planted, and maybe more carrots and turnips. On the Baker Creek seed packet for Kuroda carrots it states they generally plant carrots up to a month before they're first frost date, so I'm going along with that especially since we are close to the same latitude. I have another couple weeks to plant carrots and turnips even if it takes them till December to mature.

I've been purchasing winter hardy varieties of lettuce, spinach, chicory and radicchio. Hopefully I can get these planted in the next couple of weeks giving them about a month to size up before the first frost.

Is it too late to plant beets? Beets seem especially slow to get going compared to turnips, carrots and kohlrabi.

Our first frost is usually the very end of October or first week of November, so I'm wondering when will it be too late to plant beets. Do beets have the same winter hardiness as carrots and don't they take just about as long to mature?

Looking through my blog, in 2011 we didn't have a hard freeze until the week of November 22nd and I was still picking lettuce and radishes at the beginning of December.