Thursday, July 9, 2009

Between Planting and Harvest

This is the time of the year that is devoted to weeds (and, this year, snails). Most of the garden is planted, although I have collards, kale, pak choi and arugula seedlings in the cold frame. The big vegetables are not yet ready for harvest - tomatoes have green fruit but probably three weeks before any picking, peppers just have blossoms, pole beans are now beginning to flower (after having been repeatedly pruned by the groundhogs), the potatoes are in flower, and the garlic leaves are just beginning to dry.

We have been picking blueberries for about a week and the bushes are heavy with berries. For the first time we notice that some of the birds are interested in pecking at the berries. We continue to harvest Swiss chard and other greens. With a daily surveillance of the snails there is less loss to them.

I have planted broccoli from my seedlings and surrounded them with cut worm collars (I cut the cardboard backs of note pads into about one inch wide pieces and staple each one to form a circle). With no groundhogs these may grow. I hope so, this is the 4th planting.

One thing I have become much better about is the amount of seed I use when starting plants indoors. I became aware of this when I was growing milkweed seedlings and wanted to compare the germination rates of seeds that were cold stratified with those that weren't. To do that I planted three seeds in each cell in the six-packs. I was amazed at the germination rates (92% for those that were cold stratefied) and the result was that most cells had three seedlings in them. With the last broccoli I only had a few seeds left in the package and so I planted one to a cell. I had 17 seeds to plant and just set out 16 little seedlings from them.

In past years there have been times (admittedly rare) when I was current with weeding. Then we go away for a week - or life intervenes and I don't get to the garden for a week - and the weeds have taken over and I never catch up again. Do my vegetables grow that quickly? Of course not. I think I can weed an area one day and three days later it needs to be done again. I have been pleased with the clover that I planted among some crops. It discourages (but does not totally eliminate) weeds. The clover can best be used with larger plants - about the size of broccoli and kale - that will be taller than the clover.

This year I have grown a couple of new vegetables and I should have researched them more. I planted arugula (mostly because I wanted to see what it looked like). It grew very well but I didn't know when or how to harvest it. By the time I really noticed it, it had begun to flower. One website says once it flowers pull it out because it will be too bitter. I will be able to answer that soon because I did pull it out yesterday but saved some of the leaves in the process. Some of them will go into a salad today and then I will know if they are still worth eating. I have started more arugula but since it is a spring (cold weather) green it may not do well - unless summer continues to elude us.
Another new vegetable is red malabar spinach. Having read that it is like New Zealand spinach I treated it as such. But apparently the similarity is that it is a warm weather plant that is sort of like spinach. The New Zealand spinach plants I grew last year spread out in a bush form but I just learned that the red malabar spinach is a vine that will grow 6 to 8 feet tall. I need to create a trellis for it.

If anyone has grown arugula or red malabar spinach I would appreciate any suggestions on when to pick the leaves. I assume that I could start now with the spinach.

Although it has not been very hot yet I see that my pepper plants are beginning to grow well. So all is well right now.

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