Morning Rounds in the Garden, May

The Spring garden is producing! The lettuces, kale, collards, spinach, peas, spring onions (aka scallions), radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, garlic, and herbs are experiencing unfettered growth.

Farmers grow food to eat, but I have to believe the majority of them are nourishers at heart who enjoy watching things grow. They are people who appreciate the miracle that happens every time you place a seed in the ground, water it, watch it sprout, grow leaves, and bear fruit. They can appreciate that within every seed there is the capacity for dormant energy to awaken and grow a root that pushes downward through dirt to seek water and a stem that pushes upward to gather sunshine for continued growth through photosynthesis.

Picking up where Morning Rounds 1 left off in April …

The Lower Garden

Typically, only the perimeter of this garden is planted in the spring. I usually leave the interior raised beds open and available for summer crops.

Two words about raised beds — build them! The beds are almost maintenance free. The soil does not need to be tilled because there is no compaction from being walked on. They also offer excellent drainage and are easy to weed.

Influenced by my recent trip to India where I saw daikon radishes in almost every village, I decided to grow a trial crop of them in four of the empty raised beds. You can see them in the photo above. A side benefit of growing this crop is how well the radish’s long roots break up the soil. They do the work of a tiller.

The Sugar Snap Peas planted on February 20th have started producing. Like wild! The plants were nearly four feet tall before the first flowers appeared. Now they are loaded with blossoms and peas.

Butter Crunch Lettuce has been growing well at the foot of the pea plants.

Yesterday, I harvested the entire row of lettuce and donated it to The Nashville Food Project. I will plant a summer crop of string beans in its place. This is Booth Jewett, the Food Donations Coordinator at TNFP weighing the donated lettuce. TNFP weighs and logs all food recovered from the community. Email Booth (booth@thenashvillefoodproject.org) if you have an abundance of any food products you would like to donate.

The Champanel and Concord Grapes budded last week. The tightly grouped green balls (aka ovaries, if I must say it–my kids hate when I do)

spread out and flower for only one to two days. During that short time, the flowers self-pollinate. Self-pollination happens when each flower has both male and female parts. They only need a little wind and gravity to bring the two parts together to set the fruit. Tomatoes are pollinated the same way.

One morning, I found little silvery balls of dew around the edges of a grape leaf. That will make you smile.

As I mentioned earlier, inspired by my visit to India, I planted White Icicle radishes on March 13th and harvested them on May 4th.

The bright white radishes were pretty and tasty.

With thoughts of my visit to the Langar Hall of a Sikh temple in Delhi, where I joined volunteers to prep white radishes for lunch, I donated the harvest to TNFP. Little do those volunteers in India know they planted a seed within me that sprouted an idea.

On the left side of this garden, I grew dwarf Sugar Daddy Peas. I planted cool-weather-loving Hakurei Turnips and Sensation Spinach in front of the peas. As the peas grow taller, they will shade the turnips and spinach extending their growing season by a few weeks.

The Back Garden

The back garden gives me more joy than any other spot in my yard. It was built and designed by Jeremy Lekich, owner of Nashville Foodscapes. It is a lush and peaceful place.

My favorite part is the “blackberry fence” Jeremy installed around the garden. He used four-foot high “rabbit” fencing to keep the chickens out. The blackberries are planted outside the fence.

This cluster of blackberry flowers shows each of the stages of flower development: a closed flower bud, an open flower, and a flower that has been pollinated and is now growing a blackberry. Blackberries do require bees for pollination.

The large kale plants in this kale patch wintered over (uncovered!) from the fall. The smaller plants were started by seeds planted on March 10th.

We’ve been picking from the bed of spring onions, shown below, since May first. I planted an entire raised bed of onions this year because I never wanted to run out. I use them almost daily in salads and in cooking.

I planted lettuce seeds on March 10th, but those seeds never germinated. I think the ground was still too cold and wet. When I realized they were not going to germinate, I bought and planted a variety of lettuce plants. Later, in mid-April, I planted new lettuce seeds so I could have a succession of lettuce leaves to harvest. Those seeds germinated and can be seen growing between the larger plants.

I planted garlic cloves from heads of garlic I had in the kitchen. They have grown beautifully and should be ready for harvest next month. Interspersed with the garlic are self-seeded indigo plants from a crop I grew last summer.  Once I pull the garlic in June, I’ll let the indigo plants continue to grow throughout the summer. I’m dreaming about indigo dyes.

We’ve been eating radishes for about a month now. I will harvest what remains of those plants this week so the beet seeds I planted in the same row and at the same time as the radishes will get more sun.

I only planted a small crop of potatoes this year; just enough to be able to show the children who visit my garden where potatoes come from.

I love my herb garden! Growing in it are lots of rosemary, oregano, and thyme; all herbs I use in my recipes for Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Marbella, and Lemony Grilled Chicken. Also growing are sage, parsley, chives, cilantro and a fun perennial plant to watch called Egyptian Walking Onions.

I have a few rhubarb plants in the garden. They are perennials, and I’m hoping to establish a small bed of them.

The Chickens

The chickens continue to lay their eggs and delight us with their antics. They are the ultimate composters eating almost everything we throw in the compost pile.

Here they are eating radish and kale tops.

 

 

 

Herb Porch Pots

This is my third year to plant herb porch pots on my front porch. I always plant them using hardy herbs in late February.

My 20-month-old grandson and I have lots of rituals we partake in when he comes to visit. My favorite is to pinch a leaf off of one of the herbs, rub it between my fingers, and let him smell it. Sometimes, he tastes it, too. Yet, another reason to grow your own food!

That’s it for this version of Morning Rounds!

Related Posts
Morning Rounds 1
Eulogy for a Chicken
WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece
Herb Porch Pots!
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)
Family Dirt
Cooking 35,000 Meals a Day in a Sikh Kitchen in Delhi (India, Part 1)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Spring Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden

A hot pink and green salad. Mother Nature is a creative genius.
DSC_0342This is a close up of a salad we had for dinner this week. We call it the Lily Pulitzer Salad. Every part of it came out of our garden: lettuce, radishes, pea pods, dill, green onions and tasty radish flowers. I am beaming in amazement! To think, these vegetables all started out as tiny seeds planted in brown dirt, and now they’ve become something delicious, nutritious and gorgeous.

Here is how the newly planted garden looked on Sunday afternoon, March 15th after I spent the day tending to the soil and seeds.

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Here it is today, just ten weeks later.

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This was the first vegetable garden we built in our yard. I think of it as my summer Italian garden because later in the season, I will grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, onions, and basil in it. The garden space is 20 by 30 feet. The fence was made using four-foot high chicken wire and wood. About 18 inches from the fence sides, I “planted” a necklace of empty, upside-down, wine bottles to separate the spring planting space from the summer planting space. By keeping the center of the garden open and available, I no longer have to wait for spring crops to die off before I plant summer crops in early May.

People often ask when it is I start working the soil and planting vegetable seeds. The first vegetable I plant is always peas. I aim for getting them in the ground by March 1st, at the latest, which means I have to get the perimeter planting space prepped before then. This year, I invited the chickens to help out by doing what comes naturally to them: scratching up the dirt (tilling), eating the CHICKweed (weeding), and leaving some of their nutrient-rich poop (fertilizer) scattered about. It was a free-for-all for them and a bonanza for me.

Veg garden

To prepare the necklace space for planting, all I do is use a pitchfork to loosen the soil. I let worms and old roots do the bulk of the work of aerating the soil. I try to stay out of the way of nature. Additionally, because the perimeter space is off the beaten path, it doesn’t get compacted by foot traffic which also helps keep the soil loose and ready for the next planting season.

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Next, I planted a row of peas along the fence (notice the white dots in the soil), and then I planted two rows of green onion sets in the middle row, and finally, one row of radishes next to the bottles. This season, I was careful to space the radish seeds about every four inches to help with good root ball formation. I planted a different variety of radishes on each side of the garden, one that was quick to mature and one that would mature later in the spring.

Inside the Necklace Space: peas, onions, and radishes photographed 3/30, 4/17, and  5/30. Mixed in there were some dill seeds that had self-seeded from last year’s dill crop.

Sugar Ann Peas
There is an old gardening tradition that says to plant your peas on Valentine’s Day. That is always the goal, but seldom the reality. This year was no exception, in fact, we were iced-in for most of February, and I didn’t get around to planting anything until mid-March. This may be the reason my Sugar Ann peas, a new variety for me, failed so miserably. The other reason is they probably got crowded out by the quick growth of the onions and radishes in front of them. If I use this same planting plan next year, I’ll start the peas two weeks earlier than the onions and radishes.

In previous years, I planted two varieties of peas: a sugar snap and a snow pea. They both grow the same way and need a trellis or fence for vine support.

May 21

Sugar snaps are an edible-podded cultivar that has plump peas inside. If you harvest while young, you can still eat the pods. If you harvest late, you would need to shell the peas and discard the pod. These are so delicious raw; they hardly ever make it to the kitchen.

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Snow peas have edible pods, as well, but are flat with tiny peas inside. Snow pea pods are often used in Asian cooking. I like to use a “stringless” variety of snow peas. The chickens love the pea plants, including the leaves, and will often eat what pokes out of the chicken wire fence. One of them took a bite out of a snow pea in the photo below.

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Spring Onions (aka Scallions or Green Onions)
Sets planted 3/15. Harvest started six weeks later and continues. Even though you can buy white, yellow, or purple onion sets, I plant the purple variety for one reason, I love the color. I planted 200 sets this year. I cannot get enough of spring onions. I use them sliced and uncooked in salads, sautéed in mirepoix, and roasted whole in the oven or on the grill. Yum.

For more information on growing spring onions, radishes, and turnips, go to my last blog post, Urban Farming Part 1: Fall Planting.

“Easter Egg” Radish
Seeds planted 3/15. 30 days to maturity. Started harvesting 4/17. Sweet, mild, crispy, and colorful. Flowers are edible.

spring garden

“Red Meat” Radish (aka “Watermelon” Radish)
Planted 3/15. 50 days to maturity. Started harvesting May 18. Crisp, have more of a bite and have a beautiful hot pink color inside. Their white flowers are edible, too.

Cauliflower and Broccoli
On each end of the rectangular garden, I planted cauliflower and broccoli. Both crops were a failure. Something ate the leaves within a week of planting them. Every year, I swear I’m not going to grow these two plants ever again and every year I cave when I see them at the garden center. It’s a case of tunnel vision — I remember the glory days of gorgeous broccoli and forget about the pesticides I used to keep caterpillars from chomping away at them. Now that I have free-range chickens in my yard, I don’t use any chemicals. In fact, I often joke that the hens keep me honest whenever I get tempted.

 spring garden 4/17

Raised Beds: kale, chard, turnips, beets, potatoes

“Premier Blend” Kale
Seeds planted March 23. Days to maturity: 28 baby, 55 bunching. Harvesting began late April

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“Bright Lights” Swiss Chard
Seeds planted 3/23. Days to maturity: 28 baby, 55 bunching. Harvesting began 5/26

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“Hakurei Hybrid” Turnips
Seeds planted 3/23. Days to maturity: 38. Harvesting began 5/26

These white turnips have been the tastiest surprise of all the vegetables growing in my garden. This pure white variety of turnips are so light and crisp you can eat them like an apple. Truly. When sliced, they can be used as low-cal scoops for hummus and other dips. I’m so glad I planted two rows of them! As with other turnip varieties, you can cook the greens. I like to sauté them together with radish greens, green onions, and garlic in olive oil.

Turnip 4/17

Beets 
Planted as seedlings 4/2. Days to maturity 55. I haven’t started harvesting the beets yet because they are still quite small. I have, however, been harvesting the beet greens for the last month. I should have separated the seedlings when I first planted them for better root ball formation. In the picture below you can see how small the beets are. New gardening rule: all plants with edible roots need to be planted with sufficient space around them for good root ball formation.

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My healthiest vegetable seedlings came from my annual subscription to The Nashville Food Project‘s “Project Grow,”  a plant CSA. All plants are grown organically in TNFP’s greenhouse. The plant subscription includes herbs, leafy greens, edible flowers, tomatoes, eggplants, squashes, and peppers. Pick-up is once a month at their urban gardening site. The beet seedlings below were part of the March selection.

“Red Norland” and “Yukon Gold” Seed Potatoes
Sets planted 3/16. Harvesting began 5/26.  To prep seed potatoes for planting, slice the potatoes into 2″ chunks/sets that each contain 1-2 “eyes.” Allow to dry out for a couple of days to form calluses over the cut sides to help prevent sets from rotting in the soil. In general, when the plant leaves turn yellow, it’s time to harvest, but you can start digging for a few “new potatoes” long before that.

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Photos of potato plant growth taken on 4/4, 5/19, and 5/26:

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Every bit of the delightfully colored food in this photo was harvested on April 17th.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.