I’m sure you’ve been waiting with baited breath to hear how various experiments panned out. Wait no longer! Results are in.
Of the new vegetable varieties we’re trying this year, the Quirk cucumber, has already proven itself a winner. They’re sweet and tender and at least as productive as our other cucumber types. Just keep in mind that they mature quite small, so pick when you can still see the dried-up blossoms on the end.
Highly recommended! We’ll definitely be growing these again next year.
Overwintering a garden under a pool cover
Remember how my mothers-in-law laid down an old solar pool cover over their garden beds last fall? They didn’t plant until around the frost-free date this spring and left the pool cover on until just before planting.
By the time they took it off, nearly all of the maple leaves they’d topdressed the beds with had melted into the soil and the entire area was completely weed-free. Even weeks later, they’re only seeing very mild weed pressure, suggesting that seedlings sprouted under the pool cover then died. (My mind is blanking on which garden writer recommends a similar technique, but using black plastic. Maybe you can refresh my memory in the comments?)
Planting spring vegetables early vs. late
This experiment involved planting some broccoli seedlings early enough that their tops got a little nipped then setting out seedlings started inside at the same time considerably later. The expected tradeoff was that the early planted broccoli would grow more roots at the expense of their tops while the later planted broccoli would grow more tops at the expense of their roots.
The results are a little more mixed on this one. The early planted broccoli gave me the results I always get (because I usually plant at the first possible moment). They headed up at various sizes — some huge, some tiny, many medium. In contrast, the late-planted broccoli were more regular in size — all on the small side of medium — and they headed up one to two weeks later than the early planted broccoli.
When thinking of this in terms of overall yield, it’s important to note that we keep picking side shoots for a long time from our spring broccoli. That’s a data point in favor of the early planting, even though some of the early broccoli made teensy little initial heads.
That said, it’s nice not to have all of my excess broccoli needing to be frozen at once. Which is an argument for hedging my bets by planting both ways in future.
How about you?
Any garden experiments you’d like to share results of with the with the world at large?
It’s asparagus season and high time for an asparagus post! I’m not going to regurgitate the information you can find in any book or website about giving your plants a few years to get their feet under them before starting to harvest, keeping the weeds at bay, etc., though. Instead, I thought I’d share a few observations I’ve made over the last decade plus of growing our own asparagus then gorging on the harvest.
Our favorite variety
Don’t buy purple asparagus expecting it to look pretty on your plate. As soon as you cook them, purple spears turn green.
But do plant Purple Passion! Mark’s mom gave us five plants the same year we planted our main patch and they’ve turned out to be the earliest producers and the heaviest producers in our garden.
For the earliest harvests, rake back the mulch and any top-dressed compost a couple of weeks before you expect to see spears. This will let the ground warm faster and will buy you perhaps a week over your non-raking neighbors’ plots.
Of course, that opens you up to freeze damage which will melt your delicious veggies into goo. So, when you expect a freeze, head out and pick every spear in sight. Well, almost every spear. If an asparagus plant is less than three inches tall, I’ll instead take a leaf from my mom’s book and drop a handful of that raked-off mulch back over top for freeze protection. No need to remove it after freeze danger passes either. Pointy asparagus will push right on through.
Delectable roast asparagus
Unlike grocery-store asparagus, ours tends to come out of the garden with some tiny spears and some huge spears. If they go into the oven all different sizes, the smallest spears will burn before the bigger ones turn sweet. So if you’re like us and crave the caramelized sweetness of asparagus roasted in olive oil until the edges go brown, be sure to cut up your spears to make them evenly sized.
That’s all there is to years of delicious harvests. Enjoy what we consider one of the easiest and most dependable crops!
I don’t have a plant problem…yet.
But I did pot up my indoor seedling shelf (left photo) into an outdoor seedling table (right photo) this afternoon. Which will be great…until the next low in the 30s, forecast to show up in six short days.
The reason for all this potting up is that I started some of my seedlings — peppers, tomatoes, and the first round of cucumbers — earlier than usual this year. That means they need to be potted up and/or put into the ground earlier than usual. I’m on the fence about how smart it is to really push the spring garden envelope this way, so I’m doing a side-by-side comparison in my broccoli beds.
The broccoli story began when I set out most of my broccoli seedlings on March 21, covered them up during a cold spell that dropped into the high 20s, and watched what always happens happen again. The broccoli plants got a little nipped but not so bad that they won’t produce.
Meanwhile, I had another eight plants that I wasn’t able to fit into the designated space, which I kept inside for an extra two weeks. The indoor plants quickly outpaced the outdoor plants in size and I thought to myself, “Why not rip out some of the outdoor plants and replace them with bigger indoor plants to see whether I would have been better off not jumping the gun?” On April 3, the second round of plants went into the ground.
In the photo above, one of the indoor-longer plants is on the left. On the right is the outdoor-longer plant I’d just pulled out. I’ll try to remember to make another post in a month or two once it becomes clear which set of plants is doing best.
In other garden news, we picked our first three asparagus spears Sunday! Dandelion, our garden guardian, predicts many more will head into our bellies soon.
How’s your garden growing?
We noticed our first Snow Pea climber of 2023 a few days ago.
It seems to me that the difference between good and great climbers is a little nudge here and there to encourage upward growth.
My goal is to get them all to grow high enough to escape the afternoon shade that sets in.
If you have some broccoli seedlings maturing inside today is the day to set them free.
Broccoli is one of our biggest producers thanks to Anna’s careful planning and our new caterpillar protection method which blocks that seemingly harmless moth from making you nourish her young at the expense of beautiful broccoli plants.
I like to direct-seed leaf lettuce under a row-cover-coated caterpillar tunnel in early February, a holdover from gardening half a zone warmer than where we are now. Most years, those early lettuce either don’t sprout or sprout and perish. This year is the outlier that makes me keep jumping the gun. Lettuce planted on Valentine’s Day is well established now at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the more dependable way to get a jumpstart on the garden year in our climate is by starting seedlings inside. I usually go for all-in-one flats, but Mark bought me a bunch of smaller containers that fit into a flat and I’m getting a lot out of the mix-and-match approach. This way, I can start a flat of veggies that germinate at different rates, leaving the slow germinaters (like parsley) behind under cover while pulling out the fast germinaters (like broccoli). Then I can start more seedlings to fill in gaps atop that all-important heat pad.
I’ve even gotten into starting peas inside, but those I do in fifty-section flats because the seedlings have to be set out as soon as the tops are up. Here, I’m planting the first flat into Mark’s porch raised bed.
Seedlings are fun, but what about goodies we can eat right now? Most years are so cold up here that, even under cover, leafy greens perish before spring. This winter, in contrast was mild by our standards. A few kale plants are hanging on under the row covers while uncovered arugula is already growing and putting up flower heads. Looks like we’re having sauteed arugula for dinner!
What’s going on in your garden?