Coronavirus and gardening

Well it seems that the Coronavirus is making gardeners out of a lot of people who have never tried vegetable gardening before. Many people are interested in trying to grow food now. That makes me happy. I know it feeds my soul as well as my belly. There is a good article, ‘An onslaught of orders engulfs seed companies amid coronavirus fears’ about how the seed companies are super busy filling orders for seeds right now.  Glad some companies are doing well in all this chaos.

Being out in the fresh air (by yourself) and in a garden grounds me (no pun intended) and god knows we all need that right now-at least I do. I can’t stay inside all day and be on TV or the internet and watch or listen to all the doom and gloom news. I need to hear good news too. Growing vegetables brings me joy and makes me feel productive-in a way I’m creating my own good news and food.

Here in our area and in lots of area throughout the country, a lot of veggies can be started from seed in April, like carrots, beets, onions, greens like kale and chard. Some lettuces and spinach can be started from starts and transplanted into your garden. Warm weather crops like tomatoes, corn, winter squash, and summer squash all need to be started AFTER danger of frost which is after May 15 here in Santa Fe.

I want to encourage any of you interested in growing your own food to start now. You will feel more productive and less depressed about the worldwide Coronairus scenario.

This site has a lot of free information and tips about how to grow, what to grow,  and when to grow veggies throughout the year. Please feel free to explore the site and on the right side column, there is wealth of topics to explore.

That’s it for now. Take care of yourselves and be safe!

Kalibos cabbage-unbelievably beautiful!

For the last 2 years I’ve grown Kalibos cabbage. A friend of mine, Alessandra turned me on to it. This beautiful Eastern European variety is cone shape with huge outer leaves that surround the cone. The cabbage has a high sugar content and intense reddish-purple leaves. The flavor is sweet. Finally a cabbage I like! I never liked cabbage before. It is so beautiful in the garden and makes quite a statement.

I especially like planting it with flowers like in the picture above. It will be equally beautiful nestled in with other plants or in the veggie garden. Needs full sun and takes 2-3 square feet in the garden. Start seeds indoors and transplant them outside under some lightweight row cover. Harvest in late summer or fall. I got my seeds from rareseeds.com (Baker Heirloom Seeds). 90 days to harvest.

Growing onions

I use to think growing onions was a waste of time but I’ve changed my mind. A home grown onion is better than a store bought one that is really old. There are a couple of ways to grow onions. Go to your nursery and get ‘sets’ which are little onion bulbs and just plant them according to instructions. But what if they don’t have a particular variety you want to grow this season? Then you need to start them from seeds.

What type of onions should we grow here in Santa Fe? There are three types of onions, each one does better in certain parts of the country. Both short day and day neutral onions (sometimes called intermediate onions) will work here in Santa Fe (and of those two, day neutral do best but you can grow short day as well). Long day will NOT have enough daylight hours to work here and the onions will be puny. So when shopping for onions, be sure to ask if these are short day or day neutral types and if you are shopping online, read the description-it should say what type it is. Short day need 10-12 hours of daylight and day neutral need 12-14 hours of daylight. All can be planted in fall or early spring but not in the middle of summer.

GROWING FROM SEEDS: Next if starting from seed, you should start now or even earlier (next year-but you can start now too). In the top pictures are some Cippolini Italian onions that I could not find in sets so I started them last month from seeds. Now I am not quite ready to plant them out, and their tops were getting tall so I read it’s perfectly fine to trim off the little skinny tops. They will continue to grow. I used the cuttings on my scrambled eggs in the morning. Later this month I will separate each one and plant them out in the garden. Those spindly little green tops will grow out to be beautiful onions. I had a bumper crop of onions this last season.

If you think growing onions from seeds instead of sets might turn out smallish, then look again. These red onions from Italy turned out fantastic and I harvested them last fall and they are still good.

GROWING FROM SETS: Now if you prefer to buy sets instead, plant each bulb 1 inch deep with the round part of the bulb facing down in a well composted bed, 4 inches apart in full sun. Water moderately. For spring planting, plant bulb sets now.

HARVESTING ONIONS: When the necks become soft and the tops fall down, stop watering and when 50% of the green tops die back, the full size onions will be ready to harvest. If the bulb is poking out of the soil, that’s ok. Harvest before it freezes. Do not clean off the dirt or cut off the tops until you cure the onions. Curing is the process of letting the outer skins harden off and is necessary for them to store unless you are using them right away. Let dry in a protected area like under a porch or in a shady area for about a week and then clean off the dirt and trim off the tops. Store inside in a dark area like where you store potatoes.

Growing cool season lettuce

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Cool season lettuces and spinach in germination tray, ready to transplant into bigger pots

A friend of mine said the other night that she stopped trying to grow lettuce because it always gets too bitter. But growing lettuces in the spring can be easy-you just have to start earlier than you think you do. If you start seeds in late April, you’re too late as the weather can go from cold days to hot days very quickly and that is when they can bolt and become bitter so you’ll want to harvest earlier.

Since most lettuces are cool season crops and take around 45-55 days to mature, we need to back up our start date to sometime in February/March or even earlier inside under lights (like I did) and harvest in April or early May before it gets hot.

Be sure to grow lettuces that are cold tolerant-it should say on the seed packets. This year I started the first lettuces back on January 15 inside my house under grow lights with no heat-this is very early so I’m pushing it.

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Lettuce transplanted un into bigger pots or pony paks.

Then I transplanted them up from the germination tray into a pony pak on January 20. Then I  transplanted the plants into my greenhouse on February 17. That’s about 4 weeks old when I put them out in the ground.  My greenhouse is unheated so I have to cover them everynight and on cold days with 2 layers of row cover but so far they are doing well. Tonite is 13°F so let’s see if they survive…

Meanwhile I started more from seeds on Feb 03 and they were transplanted into the pony paks February 25 so if tonite kills the others in the greenhouse, these should go out into the greenhouse in another 1-2 weeks. Basically the whole process from starting lettuce seeds to putting out into a greenhouse or coldframe or as the season goes on takes about 4-5 weeks.

You can even put them in a raised bed or mini hoophouse with heavy row cover directly over them by the time April rolls around. So if you plant them in first week of March, you will be able to pick leaves 45 days later or around April 15. By the time everyone else is just starting their lettuce seeds, you will be enjoying the lettuces while they are sweet before it gets too hot.

Vegetable Varieties Review for 2019 garden

Here’s my report for the 2019 garden season in case of any of you want to grow them!

SUCCESSFUL VARIETIES

LETTUCES-Normally I plant cold season lettuces in early spring so they don’t bolt but in summer. This past season I also planted Summer Crisp (Batavian) varieties. They did well in OUR summer. They didn’t bolt or get bitter and had lettuce all summer and fall too. I love all lettuces but now have found varieties that grow in heat. Check out Johnny’s Seeds.

WINTER SQUASH-Butternut winter squash (any variety) doesn’t attract squash vine borers SVB (their stems are solid) OR squash bugs. So for that reason alone, I will plant more butternut squash as my winter squash. I’ve grown Italian Violini butternut, Tahiti butternut, and Waltham butternut through the years and all did well with no bugs (at least in my garden). How great is that?!

SUMMER SQUASHFriuilana zucchini also doesn’t attract squash bugs although I’m not sure about squash vine borers so I keep it covered with row cover before the flowers come and then uncover them and by then the SVB is gone.

GREEN BEANS-This past season I grew Emerite pole french filet green beans. They are one of my favorites. The Emerite beans did well and taste great.

DRY BEANS-I grew a few varieties of dry beans that I got from Italy but you can find many of them from Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans online.
Rossa di Lucca-(a dark pink bush bean with stripes) that did fantastic (I got them from our local Santa Fe Farmers Market at Zulu’s Petals Farm)

PEPPERSJimmy Narello peppers are our favorite sweet Italian pepper and Shishito peppers and both did well.

CUCUMBERS-My all time favorite EATING cucumber is Poona Kheera, hands down, and I grow PICKLING cucumbers-Parisian for cornichons, Boothby Blonde for Bread n Butter. All did well.

CARROTS-I grew Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple this year- nice, sweet, colorful carrots

BEETS-Chioga and Cylindra beets did fantastic this year.

CABBAGE-I’ve grown Kalibos cabbage the last two years and it is fantastic, producing huge conical shaped heads of red cabbage that are sweeter than most cabbages.

TOMATOES-Eight tomato varieties did really well and 17 did not fare so well. So they ones that did well this year were: Black Cherry, Cherokee Carbon, Cherokee Purple, Large Barred Boar, Original Goliath, Paul Robeson, and Grosse Verte Rose, Sungold.

 

UNSUCCESSFUL VARIETIES this year

DRY BEANS-I grew a few varieties of dry beans that I got from Italy but you can find many from Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans online.
Borlotti bean didn’t do well but has in the past. Will grow again.

Zolphino beans-started out great but a gopher got them all. Zolphino beans are hard to find in the states (I got mine in Italy) but can be found at Uprising Seeds this year. Will grow again.

Tomatoes-17 tomato plants did not do well-poor production. This very well might have been my fault with not enough water as some varieties that didn’t do well this past season have done great in years past. So I’m not counting most of these out this year.

Cour di Bue-puny vines, poor production although the Italians swear by them. Will not grow again

Dark Queen-new to me but did not do well. Will try again.

Captain Lucky-died of unknown cause. Will try this year again

Brandywines-No tomatoes-not enough growing time-too short a season here. I give up.

BKX-died of CTV (curly top virus) Bit by Beet Leafhopper. Will try again.

Santorini-Greek tomato-too small and not sweet enough-will not grow again.

 

MIXED BAG (some success and some not)

SWEET POTATOES
Georgia Jet sweet potatoes- Have a short season (90 days to harvest) and the harvest was fantastic BUT I let them go through one hard freeze and many of them rotted I believe because of that. Will grow this year but will harvest before the first frost, not even waiting for a hard freeze)

TOMATOES-
Ananas Noir-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Virginia Sweet-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Big Zac-normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Lucky Cross– This is my all-time favorite tomato that normally does well but not this past season. Will grow again.

Garlic planted yesterday Oct 26!

Garlic cloves planted and covered with straw for winter protection

Nice day yesterday here in Santa Fe. I planted the garlic I ordered from Filaree Garlic Farm online for the second year and their garlic is great. I ordered 3 hardneck varieties (hardneck varieties do well here in cold climates). They are Penasco Blue, German White and Music. All produce big heads of garlic.  If you plant garlic in late fall (October), you will get bigger heads of garlic in early summer than if you wait till summer to plant it and it’s sooo easy at this time of year. I added about 2 inches of compost on top of my raised bed, lightly dug it in and planted the cloves pointy side up about 3 inches deep. Then water well and add about 6 inches of straw on top for winter protection. Remember to water them in the winter if we don’t get any precipitation and wait for the green leaves to appear in early spring. Nothing  bothers them too and fresh garlic is great! That’s it-easy peezy.

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Santa Fe? Yes!

Sweet potato vines with chard at end of bed

 

I tried sweet potatoes this season. I wasn’t sure if we would have enough time for them to get big. Plus they like really hot, damp climate like in the South where they are grown a lot. Sweet potatoes take between 90-170 days to mature. Yikes! Many varieties would not mature here in our short season. I ended up getting a variety called Georgia Jett because it has one of the shortest growing times—90 days to harvest. It has orange flesh.

I got a dozen sweet potato slips in spring. They arrived in the mail too early to plant. And they were not in good shape when they came. I had to keep them alive in the house till the weather and soil warmed up in late spring. At first, I put a damp paper towel in a plastic bag with the slips to keep moist. I lost 7 of them. Then I eventually had to put them in a glass of water where they started producing roots. As it got close to planting time, I put them outside in a bucket with water. I planted them in June in Wall of Waters as the nights were still cool, We had a late snow on May 20. Five survived.

Sweet potato flower

Well it turns out those five slips filled and overflowed the 10′ x 4′ raised bed. They are easy to grow and not much bothers them, plus no bugs. They just need water and heat, which we got plenty of heat this summer. They are beautiful plants. I’m not sure where I coulda put the other 7 as they are rampant growers and need space. Plus I didn’t know they are related to morning glories and have a beautiful flower which is smaller than a morning glory flower. Another bonus!

Left side-sweet potatoes still curing Right side-sweet potatoes with dirt brushed off and ready for pantry

They have now been harvested and many of them are very large. They are curing inside the house because they must be kept warm during the curing process. Curing is a hardening off process for veggies like squash and garlic to harden the skins and in this case to sweeten them as well. When you dig them out, don’t wash off the dirt while they are curing. They have to cure for 10 days in a warm space. After that, you can lightly brush off the dirt but still don’t wash them till just before use. Store them in a dark space like regular potatoes. I don’t know about the flavor yet as they are still curing inside the house but they look good. I’ll let you know when I eat some of them about the flavor.