Two of my favorite catalogs have updated their online listings for 2014. I’m excited for next year already! If you see something neat that we should try, leave a comment!
Over the weekend, I read a post on one of the gardening blogs I follow (The Veggie Patch Re-Imagined) about another blog all about growing uncommon root vegetables. I was familiar with some of the roots/tubers mentioned (oca, mashua, mauka, etc) from attempting to grow them at a previous job. (I left them when the plants were still babies.) So I emailed myself to check out that blog this morning when I didn’t have to use my phone to browse.
From there, it was a quick trip down the garden blog rabbit hole. I found about a dozen new blogs and websites to follow, and because I have no sympathy for your needs to not spend time browsing the internet, I’m going to share them with you. So as a word of warning, if you don’t have at least an hour to spend browsing garden sites, please stop reading now and go do something else.
We removed the remaining plants from the Demo Garden today, and I’ll share those pictures and thoughts with you over the next few weeks. I wanted to start with this one, though!
The Rattail Radishes are grown for their edible seed pods that can be stir-fried or eaten raw. From that standpoint, our planting was a bit of a failure. If I had thought it through before, I would have realized that expecting a root vegetable to bolt in the fall was a sketchy proposition.
Only one of the plants managed to bolt and flower. Even then, only a few of the flowers turned into seed pods before it got too cold. Those green spikes in the middle of the picture? Those were the two, lonely “rattails” from this endeavor. The exciting part was pulling the plants up!
Look at those roots! That one huge one is at least 15″ long. You can see, looking at these, why some types of radishes are recommended for planting as cover crops. Those roots can help loosen clay soil, and they mine the deeper soil for nutrients. Then those nutrients are available in the upper part of the soil as the plants decompose after freezing in the winter. Anyway, these roots aren’t really meant for consumption (although I’m sure you could eat them if you wanted to), but we wanted to cut the big one open to see what the inside looked like.
As you can see, there’s a nice crack down the center of the root. It was probably caused by moisture fluctuation or overly fast growth. I did taste a piece of it, and it was really watery and fairly bland. The texture wasn’t completely pithy yet, but it was getting there. Yuck!
Most of you probably know by now that I get really excited about different, strange, or new vegetable varieties. (Maybe the reality is that I get bored easily with the regular varieties.) Of course, there is no better way to have crazy varieties to try than to look at heirloom varieties.
Now, the caveat when you start growing heirlooms is that you have to understand that the yield may be lower, the plants may be larger/more vigorous/gangly, and they may be more disease susceptible. Still, boring is not a word you would typically use to describe the experience of growing heirlooms.
If you want to learn about heirlooms and have the opportunity to browse through all the options, Seed Savers Exchange is a great place to start. Seed Savers is based in Decorah, IA at the Heritage Farm. They grow out heirloom seeds that they have collected over the years to produce seeds that you can purchase or that they can store to keep the genetics of those plants available for the future in their seed bank. Visiting the Heritage Farm is definitely on my bucket list!
Seed Savers publishes a catalog of heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs that you can purchase from them, which is great. Even better though, is to have the opportunity to browse through their Seed Exchange Yearbook. The yearbook is a huge book where gardeners from all over the world can list the heirloom varieties that they have grown and have seeds to exchange. There are thousands of entries! To get the Yearbook, you have to be a member of Seed Savers.
However, they have just rolled out their new Online Seed Exchange! You can browse through all of the listings to see what is available by visiting http://exchange.seedsavers.org. There are 9,965 tomato listings! This one caught my eye on the first page:
1884 – Strawberry Wedge: indet., regular leaf, 16 oz. wedge shape pink fruit, meaty flesh with little juice, good sweet flavor, good production
A 1 lb, wedge-shaped, pink tomato! Where do I sign up? Of course, that’s the catch. You can now see the listings without having a membership, but you still have to become a member if you want to get these varieties. Some varieties are rare and you have to agree to save seeds to get some seeds to grow out. If you are sad that it is December and can’t wait for spring, then you should click on over and browse through their listings.
If you get serious about trying some heirlooms, you might want to look for seeds that have been grown and saved in more southerly locations, because they will probably be better adapted to the heat of a Kansas summer.
Given the lesson of the other sprouting broccoli, when the Purple Peacock Sprouting Broccoli started putting on a head, I took it off fairly soon.
As you can see from this view, it doesn’t look nearly as purple up close. And then there is the caterpillar. We haven’t treated for the cabbageworms recently, so I wasn’t surprised to see one. What was surprising is that I actually found six caterpillars in this small head of broccoli. Yes, that’s a lot. Yikes!
Here’s the green sprouting broccoli that I cut several weeks ago. It also has some nice side shoots growing. Once things thaw out, we may have to cut some of these. Broccoli is typically damaged once the temperature dips below 24, so I’ll be interested to see how these plants come out of the cold.