Spined Soldier Bug on Patrol in the Robbins Farm Garden!

On Saturday morning, July 14th, I discovered this 1/4-inch long, light-orange colored bug on the basil.  It proved difficult to photograph, since it really didn't like to stand still.  However Alan, being very patient, finally captured these two shots -- one for close-up detail, and the other with my hand for scale.

   

After many hours of searching the internet, I am now convinced that what I found is the nymph stage of a type of Stink Bug -- the Spined Soldier Bug, Podisus maculiventris.  While many types of Stink Bugs are exceedingly damaging to many food crops in the U.S., this particular bug is actually beneficial because it's a predator.  It kills other insects by literally sucking the life out of them!  

So, this is one of the good guys!  It's a good thing that we don't need to get rid of this bug, as stink bugs are very difficult to control, both organically and conventionally!

 

 

For more info on Spined Soldier Bugs:
1.  http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/insects/bugs/stinkbugs/stinkbugs.htm#nymph

2.  http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2010/08/02/immature-predatory-stink-bug-eats-monarch-caterpillar/

3.  http://bugguide.net/node/view/237854

4.  http://stinkbugsguide.net/infestation.htm

5.  http://www.motherearthnews.com/blogs/blog.aspx?id=142346&LangType=1033&blogid=1502

 

Flower Sprouts: Kale and Brussels Sprouts Announce a "Love Child"

Chief Gardening Officer Mike Smith recently made us aware of Flower Sprouts, called the first new vegetable in 10 years, a cross between Kale and Brussels Sprouts.  (See Mike's post).  At Mike's suggestion we decided to try them in the Garden this year.  

 

Flower Sprouts thriving in the Robbins Farm Garden, with proud parents Kale and Brussels Sprouts (not shown) close at hand.

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Reportedly, the Flower Sprout was developed by Tozer Seeds, a family-owned business in Surrey, UK and was first introduced in 2010.   Both an owner and a senior plant breeder from Tozer expressed pride to the press over this first new vegetable in a decade.  Apparently, this enthusiasm is not shared by everybody in the UK, with the Daily Mail announcing "A New Vegetable for Your Children to Hate".  Even the BBC Surrey reporter interviewing the Tozer Seeds representatives seemed to be trying to overcome her timidity over veggies to faintly praise the Flower Sprout "... although Dr Frankenstein probably thought the same about his little project, the Flower Sprout is different. Far from being some sort of hybrid monster, it has been developed over the last ten years using traditional breeding techniques........ It has a Brussels sprout-like growing habit with its tall stem and rosettes forming all the way up to a frilly-leaved top. A bit like one of the more imaginative hats you see at Ascot Ladies Day.  And its appeal may go further than just the aesthetic. Brussels Sprout haters around the world could possibly be won over by its milder, sweeter flavour. But for those of you who, like me, are of a nervous disposition and get easily frightened by funny shaped vegetables, be warned!"

 

"Funny-shaped"?  We would take issue with that description, but, of course, we Robbins Farm Gardeners are particularly enthusiastic and welcoming to our veggies, be they "old standbys" or exotic newcomers.   As the reporter notes, Flower Sprouts grow in a stalk like Brussels Sprout, but the "sprouts" remain open, forming small curly leaves like Kale. And, they're a lovely deep green and purple.  Many of us are excited for them to be ready to harvest but we hope you will come visit them in our Garden first.

The Many Uses of Garden Fabric, or Row Cover

Garden fabric, aka row cover or floating row cover, can be very handy to have on hand in your garden, as it can serve many purposes! 

http://demandware.edgesuite.net/aabf_prd/on/demandware.static/Sites-Gardeners-Site/Sites-Gardeners-Library/default/v1342101044253/Articles/Gardening/Content/5111-all-purpose.jpg

Garden fabric can . . .

     *  slow evaporation from a plant and its surrounding soil

     *  act as a thermal barrier, protecting plants from the cold and the wind

     *  help to shade the plants, protecting them from overheating

     *  prevent insect damage, by keeping munching insects away from the plants

     *  stop birds and other critters from helping themselves to your harvest

     *  control pollination, in case you want to try very specific cross-pollination experiments

Available in different thicknesses, the heavier garden fabrics are better in the colder months (for heat retention), while the lighter fabrics are a much better choice when the weather gets hot. 

Also, remember that many vegetable and fruit crops require cross-pollination and, since the fabric will limit access to the plants' flowers, pollination must be done by hand, or the fabric must be removed for an hour or two each day to allow pollinators to do their job.  Once pollination has taken place, the row cover may be left in place to protect the maturing crops.

In some cases, garden fabric should be cut into strips, and the strips wrapped around the stems of plants to protect them from boring-type insects.  E.g., most types of squash are susceptible to attack by the squash vine borer (SVB).  As the name states, the SVB (in its large caterpillar form) bores its way into the main stem of squash plants, and then eats its way through the stem, usually until the plant wilts and dies.  This attack may be prevented with a garden fabric wrapping of the stem.  The best time to apply garden fabric in this manner is before a seedling is put in the ground.  Start wrapping the stem about an inch below ground level, and wrap it all the way to the top, avoiding the side branches as you go.  As the plant grows, more fabric may be added, and the fabric already in place may need to be loosened to avoid restricting growth of the stem.  In this way, the stem is protected from vine borers, but the entire plant does not have to be covered, thereby using much less fabric.

For more info on this very versatile tool, see:  www.gardeners.com/Row-Covers/5111,default,pg.html

Stars for the Bees

A newcomer this year to our herb garden is unexpectedly boisterous and intriguing: The herb borage joined one of our two herb beds at the end of April, when we redug and redesigned them. It's already a hearty bush, about three feet tall and right now in heavy bloom. Known also as "starflower", its blooms appear on the plant in both blue and pink versions--apparently younger and older flowers. The honey bees are enjoying the plant immensely; the plant is known for producing good honey, and we're always happy to see pollinators in the garden. We're just learning about borage, since it isn't commonly found in North American herb gardens. It's a probable native of North Africa that has spread across Europe, Asia Minor, the Mediterranean, and South America. Borage is apparently easy to grow from seed, but we acquired our plant from Mahoney's; it's an annual that is said to reseed itself easily, so we won't need to shop for it next year.

We might have made more of the plant's role in companion planting, had we known: it repels tomato hornworms if planted with tomatoes--and cabbage worms when planted with brassicas (hurray!). The plant debris is also a helpful mulch; it contains high levels of calcium and potassium which help the setting of fruit for all fruits and vegetables.

The whole plant is edible, the leaves having a cucumber flavor (I can vouch for that, though the fuzziness of the leaves is a little odd on the tongue), the blooms somewhat honey-sweet; the flower is often used to decorate desserts as it is one of very few truly blue-colored edible substances. It can be used both as a fresh vegetable (in salads and soups) and as a dried herb (in tea).

Beyond its kitchen garden uses, the plant's seed oil is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid found chiefly in vegetable oils. This fatty acid is found as a dietary supplement said to treat inflammation and auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, borage is a traditional garnish in the Pimms Cup cocktail, the expected beverage at your neighborhood polo match or Wimbledon.

A quality we will not test, though it would have been timely on the 4th, is due to the plant containing nitrate of potash; when burned, the plant throws sparks with a tiny explosive sound.

Sources:

Grieve, M. (Maud) (1931). Borage. In A Modern Herbal. Retrieved from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/borage66.html

Klein, Carol (2009, January 23). Star Turn. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/24/carol-klein-borage

Borage. (2012, June 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved23:31, July 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Borage&oldid=499739160

Biocontrol of Cucumber Beetle Larvae (an organic solution)

A living organism that can be used to control pests and/or diseases is called a "biocontrol."  The following web sites all sell (or have a list of sellers of) Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, a parasitic nematode (microscopic worm), that enters and destroys the larvae of the cucumber beetle.  It is effective against some other larvae, as well.

1.  http://greenmethods.com/site/shop/buy-bugs/3/
2.  http://www.fertilizeronline.com/nematodes.php
3.  http://www.bugladyconsulting.com/Suppliers%20of%20beneficial%20insects.htm

And for more info on insect parasitic (i.e., "beneficial") nematodes:  http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/nematodes/

Buying beneficial nematodes can be a bit pricey, especially for a smaller-sized garden, so you may want to try buying them and sharing the expense with other gardening neighbors, (which is always a good idea, anyway, since this helps to eliminate the pest from your entire neighborhood, not just your yard !), or you may want to try a different, less expensive solution first, e.g., the Burpee cucumber beetle trap.  However, these nematodes will eliminate some other pests besides the cucumber beetle, while the traps (I believe) are very target insect-specific.

Note:  Nematodes and other treatments that control the Striped Cucumber Beetle are equally effective against the Spotted Cucumber Beetle. 

Spotted Cucumber Beetle (adult)

 [See journal entry, below, for more info regarding the Cucumber Beetle.]

 

Striped Cucumber Beetle - Not Just a Problem with Cucumber Crops!

FYI, last week, while examining our potato crops, I found a 1/4-inch long, yellow and black striped beetle -- the Striped Cucumber Beetle -- on one of the leaves!  This chewing insect can devastate a crop if allowed to munch and reproduce unchecked.  Besides the obvious leaf damage that they do, (which compromises a plant's ability to photosynthesize, i.e., create food), these insects can oftentimes be vectors of plant diseases such as bacterial wilt and cucumber mosaic virus.  The adults feed on squash family plants, beans, corn, peas, and blossoms of many garden plants, often killing the plants.  Larvae feed on roots of squash family plants only, killing or stunting the plants.  Adults overwinter in dense grass or under leaves, emerging in early-spring to early-summer.  Eggs are layed at the base of target plants, and hatch in 10 days.  Larvae burrow into the soil to feed on roots for 2-6 weeks, pupate in mid- to late-summer into 1/2-inch, white grubs with brown heads, then, in 2 weeks, emerge as adults to feed on blossoms and maturing fruit.  One to two generations per year. 

NOTE:  Besides the adult beetle's description, the above information regarding the Striped Cucumber Beetle also applies to the Spotted Cucumber Beetle.  See above journal entry for photo of the Spotted Cucumber Beetle.

Striped Cucumber Beetle (adult)

For more info on the Cucumber Beetle, and to see a diagram of the Life Cycles of both the Striped and the Spotted Cucumber Beetles, click here.

To control:  Remove and destroy crop residues where adults overwinter.  Use floating row covers to protect seedlings and plants, and hand-pollinate (using cotton swabs) the squash family plants.  Pile salt marsh hay or straw deeply around plants to discourage beetle movement amongst plants.  Apply kaolin clay to uncovered plants, using special care to coat the undersides of leaves, too.  Reapply after rain.  Hand-pick or vacuum adults, and/or apply parasitic nematodes, (Heterorhabditis bacteriophora), weekly to soil to control the larvae.  If all else fails, pyrethrin (a plant-based insecticide), may be applied to beetles seen feeding on pollen in flowers.

 

A Brackett Elementary School Green Initiatives Group "Pizza Garden Starter Kit" finds a home at the Robbins Farm Garden

One example of the Pizza Garden Starter Kits

A Pizza Garden Starter Kit

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To help support activities of its Green Initiatives Group, students and parent volunteers from the Brackett Elementary School sold "Pizza Garden Starter Kits" in early June. The Group began this project, assisting third grade teacher Jenny Brown, by reclaiming a greenhouse at the school that had been used for storage. With help from the children and staff of the Brackett After School Program, BASP, USDA certified organic seeds were planted in pots (using organic potting soil) in late April and cared for over the next 6 weeks.  Each kit consisted of 4 seedlings including a cherry tomato, basil, oregano and sweet pepper plant, marked with individual artful hand-made signs. Also part of the package was a note with care instructions and sauce recipes. (The seeds were from Botanical Interests). 

The Robbins Farm Gardeners were delighted to purchase a Pizza Kit and to give it a home in the Garden. We hope that the students and parents who gave these plants their start will visit the Garden to watch their progress!

The Green Initiatives Group at Brackett Elementary School fosters projects including composting and recycling to raise awareness within the school community about our impact on the environment and to promote more ecologically sustainable practices.  The Green Initiatives Group anticipates, through its current school year efforts, diverting 10,000 pounds of cafeteria waste from the waste stream, and saving 500-1,000 large sized trash bags. The Group is interested in more growing projects for the school and wider community next school year, including another pizza garden project. 

The Brackett volunteers report that 45 Pizza Kits were sold, raising approximately $540 dollars to support these programs.  If you'd like to help support the Green Initiatives Group at Brackett, or to help form one for your school, contact the group through gig.brackett@gmail.com.  (Thanks to Kim Kapner, Erika Riddington, and Robin Varghese for their contributions to this post.)

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"Green and Red" pepper plants, growing in the Brackett Elementary greenhouse.  (This variety produces green peppers that will eventually turn red and sweeter.)

Several Pizza Garden Starter Kits, ready for sale

Our Pizza Garden Starter Kit, planted in the Robbins Farm Garden and covered with a shade cloth to protect the young seedlings from the hot sun.

Bolting bok choy

For the second season in a row, our bok choy is bolting, putting out flowers and seed heads instead of developing into the semi-celery-like stalks I'm used to seeing in the market.

After clipping the flower shoots, I tasted one of them and it was pleasing, both tender and tasty — as opposed, say, to the mustard greens stalks, which were way too reedy to eat. Still, it wasn't bok choy like I'm used to seeing in the market.

I don't know what, if anything, we can do for these guys, but I would like to put it on our futures list that we investigate: more shade, different variety, lots of gentle encouragment?

As I discussed my concern with a couple of garden mates Saturday, Lisa confided her antipathy for bok choy, and I was glad to have a balance for her beet mania. I love bok choy.

Heat Wave Watering

The weather forecast says hot and sunny for the next week, with no rain.  According to conventional wisdom, a vegetable garden needs an inch of rain a week.  A good, soaking rain will provide 1/4" or more, so a few days a week sufficiently waters a garden.

Without rain, a vegetable garden needs supplemental watering.  In sunny weather particularly, the soil will rapidly dry out.  First, do the finger test:  poke a finger down to the second knuckle.  If it comes out dry, the soil needs watering.

Second, consider the maturity of the plants.  Young seedlings do not yet have deep roots, and so depend on moisture at the top.  They need watering more frequenty -- at least every other day.  Mature plants ought to have deeper roots, so as to need watering less frequently.  However, unless they get some un-watered days, they don't have incentive to root deeply.  Plants adapt to the watering they are given, so watering every day means you'll have to continue watering every day.

For our garden mid-season, we have a mix of maturing plants and seedlings.  This comes from rotating crops -- for example, when the peas came out Saturday, the pole beans went in -- and from staggering plantings, so that we get multiple generations of things like carrots and lettuce.  So this forces us, in the absence of rain, to water at least every other day.

We prefer to water in the morning, to reduce loss to evaporation in the hotter and sunnier part of the day, and so that the leaves don't stay wet overnight and acquire mildew.  We also prefer to water by hand, with watering cans, to put the water where we want it, and not just throw it up in the air with a sprinkler.

How many watering cans-full do we need to apply?  Just how much water does 1-inch a week mean?

A standard bed in our garden is 6' x 9'.  54 sqft x 1-inch = 4.5 cubic feet of water per bed.  1 cubic foot = 7.5 gallons.  Thus, our beds each need 4.5 x 7.5 = 33.75 gallons of water per week.  With 1.5 gallon watering cans, that's around 22-23 full watering cans.  That means, when watering, we should water each bed with at least 3 full watering cans -- and probably more, since we don't want to water every day.

Our entire garden is 2000 sqft, with about 60% for growing plants (much of the remainder is used for paths for visitors as well as ourselves).  1200 sqft x 1-inch x 7.5 gallons/cuft = 750 gallons = 500 full watering cans.  Watering five times a week means 100 full watering cans each.

This sounds like a lot of water!  But compare to how much water you use to shower yourself.  A typical modern showerhead has a flow of 2.5 gallons per minute.  So the water we need in our garden per week is about the same as showering for 300 minutes.  How many showers do you take per week?

 

 

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Peas: Good Tall Varieties

Tall Peas

 

Growing multiple varieties of vegetables is the tradition at Robbins Farm Garden. So it is with our Peas. This year, we grew three types: Snap (Sugar Snap), Snow (Mammoth Melting Sugar) and Shell (Alderman).

The Sugar Snap Peas performed well enough last year to justify a repeat performance, covering our 7-foot high bamboo trellis which also serves as the platform for the late season Pole Beans. Yet, the bush-type Snow and Shell Peas we grew last year were not the best use of vertical space.

The search for a tall Snow Pea was easy. Mammoth Melting Sugar is an heirloom variety, considered one of the largest and finest flat pod peas on the market. They grew, not unexpectedly, terrifically well in our garden. A tall variety of Shell Pea was more difficult to find. We decided upon Alderman, a variety marketed by Thompson & Morgan.

Alderman is a later pea (85 days to maturity vs. 70 for Sugar Snap & 68 for Mammoth Melting Sugar), but it did not disappoint. The plants grew as quickly -- and as tall -- as the other Peas, and the production was every bit as good. Fresh from the pod, they rival snap peas for flavor and sweetness. One warning: they require very little cooking, and they lose their flavor if over-cooked.

The Pea plants were pulled today and Pole Beans planted in their place. Overall, I would have to rate this year's Pea crop as outstanding, with a solid month of harvest.

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New Compost Arrangement

We're implementing a new compost arrangement:  three bins instead of two.  In the past, we used two -- a square wire frame, and a cylindrical black plastic.  However, with being able to keep the compost pile over-winter, as well as the huge amount of winter rye at the beginning of the year going into the compost this spring, we exceeded our capacity.

So I decided to have us use three cylindrical plastic ones, because they are deformable, and so can be squeezed into the space allocated for composting.  Three bins will facilitate turning.  With just two bins, we were forced to turn one into the other even while adding new matter, or else not turning to keep new matter separate from more decomposed matter.

With three bins, one bin will be emtpy, and we can alternate turning one of the other compost piles into the empty bin, or even turn both.  New matter will go into one of the piles, so that the older pile can more completely mature into good compost.  When the older pile is ready for compost extraction, the newer pile will then become the older pile, and we will start a newer pile.

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Swiss chard: a Madison Avenue success

 

ChardChardWe harvested Swiss chard Saturday, one of the garden's most colorful vegetables.

Lots of what people believe about Swiss chard turns out to be wrong. Here's just one example: It's not Swiss. It's Sicilian.

Overall, the chard family goes back thousands of years to Iraq. Some chards were grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The family's most colorful member got its start in Sicily, a big island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy.

Back in the mid-1800s, however, chard was not all that popular of a crop in Europe. So seed sellers decided to see whether they could spice it up a little bit, give it a bit more cachet. They decided to call it "Swiss." After all, this variety does look kind of knickknacky Swiss–colorful, shiny, kind of hard, like a souvenir you might bring home from the Alps.

The growers hit paydirt. Seed sales jumped through the roof. The rest was history. Chalk one up for Madison Avenue.

 

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Organic Treatment for Blight

Thanks to the Landreth Seed Co. for the following info:

This is a ‘heads-up’. It is not meant to alarm or frighten. The intent is to educate and inform.

During the 2012 gardening season, blight is going to be a problem. Early season, mid season and late season blight are going to be a problem for tomatoes and potatoes and possibly eggplants. The moisture that inundated the United States east coast with Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee and the extraordinarily mild winter have combined to create an unusually comfortable environment for the proliferation of blight spores.

Blight is a fungus transmitted by spores which can lay dormant in soil and be carried by the wind as much as 50 miles in a day. Under ideal conditions spores can germinate in ½ hour. The last great outbreak was in 2009, but 2012 may also be a record year.

For those of you who intend to grow tomato, potato or eggplant plants, you MUST take precautions early even if you are organic gardeners. Landreth suggests that you use copper fungicide, a fungicide approved for organic farming. Use the powder form of copper fungicide. Copper fungicide is sold at most garden centers. Dust the soil where you are going to plant your tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants and till the dust into the soil. On the day you plant your seedlings, dust the seedlings, and repeat this dusting every two weeks, for two more dustings.

If you observe signs of blight later in the season, (a spotting of the lower leaves and stems), dust the plants immediately and repeat the dusting in 5-7 days. Copper fungicide is very effective. If you follow the suggested protocols your plants will probably be okay. If you do nothing, or if you wait until late July or August to address this issue, you may lose your entire potato, tomato or eggplant crop.

Unfortunately, we did not know to take the above precautionary measures at the beginning of our gardening season, but it now appears that we may have late blight hitting our potatoes.  A few of the plant stems have rotted and collapsed, so we removed them from the garden and destroyed them.  We then dug to see what, if any, potatoes may have been formed on the diseased plants.  Our gold potato plant yielded only two small (1-2") tubors, while our red potato plant yielded a few small tubors, and eight very small (less than 1") tubors.  Many of the remaining plants are showing signs of blight -- brown spots on their leaves, and major wilting, so we will begin dusting with copper dust fungicide.

Photo of Late Blight on Potato:  plantdiagnostics.umd.edu/_media/client/diagnostics/fullsize/late_blight_potato_l.jpg

For more info on Late Blight:  www.ag.ndsu.edu/extplantpath/plant-pest-alerts/potato-tomato-late-blight-start-monitoring-early

For info on using copper dust to control early or late blight, or other plant diseases, go to www.bonide.com/lbonide/backlabels/l771.pdf

You may find the Landreth Seed Co. at:  www.landrethseeds.com/

 

 

This Potato, That Potato

We have three varieties of potatoes:  russet, yukon gold, and red.  The russet potatoes are doing great.  The yukon gold looked like they were suffering:  the leaves were yellowish, and the plants weak.  Mike dug up a few potatoes to see if there was anything in the soil (like a nasty critter) responsible, but couldn't find any culprits.  As a desperate experiment, I applied a fair amount of compost to the yukon gold plant on the end, to see if that would make any difference by next week.

Comment by Alan

Steven, you may be mistaking maturity for disease. Yukon Gold matures about 65 days after planting - the potatoes were planted April 7, so day 65 was June 11. I harvested one full-size Gold last night (7/3 - and it was delicious!).The russets on the other hand are 80-90 days, so maturity should arrive this week. It should be a nice staggered harvest - maybe half the fast spuds this week, half next week, then start into the russets in late July.

About: 

Mildew follow-up

There is no sign of mildew in our Garden.  We try to have people water in the morning if possible, as there's more water lost to heat and evaporation mid-day, and water in the evening can linger on the leaves overnight, which can result in mildew.

I checked the sunflower leaves, which last week were getting eaten badly.  They looked about the same to me, and new leaves had little munching upon.  So maybe applying potassium bicarbonate did give the leaves enough of a different taste to whatever was eating them.  Or maybe they just moved on for other reasons.  Or maybe the planted adapted by changing it's own chemistry.  So many possibilities; it's hard to know what works.

Unfortunately, I didn't make arrangements with the person who has the sprayer, and he was on vacation today, so I didn't apply any potassium bicarbonate today.

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Late to the Garden Party: Vegetables You Can Plant in July

(This is a repost from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds....)

See:  http://www.mailermailer.com/x?function=view&c=96324356q-48da02ef*921496h...

Late to the Garden Party: Vegetables You Can Plant in July

For most gardeners in the northern tier of the U.S., the customary time to plant vegetables is May and only May. How this tradition began is anyone’s guess, but we say “phooey.” Planting vegetables in mid-summer is brilliant. When September rolls around, you’ll be picking tender heads of Lettuce, baby Beans, Carrots, Peas, Beets and little Summer Squash. In October, you’ll dine on flawless Asian Greens, crunchy Kohlrabi, frilly Frisee and Radishes. And in November, you’ll be eating garden-fresh Scallions, spicy Arugula, Broccoli, Mâche, Peas, Spinach, Broccoli raab, Kale, Salad Greens, Turnips and Swiss Chard.

There’s something really wonderful about tending a fall garden. The panic of spring is gone and the heat and bugs of summer are history. Fall brings cool days in the garden and cool evenings in the kitchen, with the time and energy to satisfy those autumn cravings for deep green vegetables and sweet root crops. So how can you get in on the fun?

Pull Some, Plant Some. As soon as you’ve picked the last of the Peas, and the early Lettuce and Spinach are past their prime, pull them out and send them to the compost pile. Fork over the soil, add a little finished compost and replant. We like to fill a little box with seed packets that are ideal for second plantings, and keep it right in the tool shed so we can sprinkle a few seeds whenever a bare spot opens up. For mid-summer planting, our box always contains Bush Beans and short-vine Peas, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Kale, Scallions and some heat-resistant Lettuce varieties such as Tintin Baby Romaine, Rouge Grenoblois Batavian and Danyelle Red Oakleaf. By the end of August we’re planting seeds for cold-tolerant crops that will mature in 60 days or fewer: Radishes, Spinach, Lettuce, Asian Greens, Turnips and Carrots.

Screen the Sun. The trickiest thing about planting in mid-summer is keeping the soil surface consistently moist. If the soil dries out during this initial 2 to 3 week period, the seeds either won’t germinate, or the newly sprouted seedlings may die and you will need to start over. Sowing the seeds just a little deeper than usual can be helpful. The best strategy is to just water the areas daily until the new plants get established. Note that many cool-weather crops, including Lettuce, will not germinate in soil temperatures above 80 degrees F. To create cool, relatively moist growing conditions, cover the area with a piece of shade netting or take advantage of the natural shade from a trellis or tall plant. Another option is to start your second crops indoors under grow lights.

Don't Delay. Summer-planted crops typically mature more slowly than spring-planted crops (as the days shorten, plant growth slows). Using the days-to-maturity figure on the seed packet, add an extra 14-days as a "low-light factor". Find your first frost date on the NOAA website: Use this date and then count backwards to get the latest planting date for frost-sensitive crops like Beans and Summer Squash. Frost-tolerant crops such as Broccoli, Kale and Lettuce, will grow more and more slowly as the days get shorter. It’s important to get these crops to a good size before mid-September. After that, most can be harvested as late as Thanksgiving, but they won’t be putting on much new growth.

Hang Onto the Warmth. When cold weather arrives, you can protect your fall garden from frost and cold by covering the plants with garden fabric or a cold frame. It’s fine to lay the fabric right on the plants; the closer the fabric is to the ground, the warmer it will keep the plants. If/when temperatures drop into the teens, add another layer so your crops are covered with a double thickness of fabric~or add a layer of fabric right on top of the plants inside your cold frame.

Healthier Bodies, More Delicious Meals.  We all know that at least half of the food we eat every day should be fruits and vegetables. How much easier and more enjoyable this is, when much of that food comes directly from our own garden. What will you make with these fresh vegetables that you’re still harvesting in September, October and November? Oh my! Well how about Chard Stems with Golden Onions and Fresh Bread Crumbs? Or Radicchio Salad with Parmesan-Balsamico Vinaigrette and Broccoli Raab Penne Pasta? An autumn favorite we never tire of is Beet Salad with Apples and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette. It almost makes us long for fall. But not yet~there are weeks of glorious summer days still ahead.

We share our best-of-the-best recipes so you can feed your family and friends well without feeling frenzied, and practical, hands-on horticultural tips to demystify gardening with seeds (it need not be tricky or difficult. Truth be told, it is a bit more like easy magic.) If you need help with anything, our office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can email us at customerservice@kitchengardenseeds.com or call us at (860) 567-6086. Lance Frazon, our seed specialist, is happy to help you in any way possible. He loves to talk seeds.

Call us at (860) 567-6086: we will help you in any way we can!

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

23 Tulip Drive * PO Box 638 * Bantam, CT 06750

 

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Beautiful red beets

Beets

Yesterday we harvested some really beautiful red beets–Chioggias, from Italy–one of four varieties we're growing in the garden this year. These were planted just over two months ago, on March 21.

Cut in two, a Chioggia looks a lot like a bb target with its red and white rings. For people who like beets, it makes a colorful addition to a salad.

Not everyone likes beets, however. While many love them, many also hate them. President Obama and the First Lady, for example, both count themselves among the thumbs-down-to-beets segment of the population, roughly a third of the country. That's why there's not a single beet growing in the White House's kitchen garden.

Why do some folks not like beets? For most, it's because of their bad luck in the genetic casino. They ended up with a set of genes that make them especially sensitive to the scent of geosmins, bacterial debris that give fresh dirt its fresh smell, but that also (for these poor souls, at least) make fresh beets taste like dirt. (Google "beets" and "taste like dirt" and you'll see how widespread this phenomenon is.)

Beets are not the only veggie that puts off certain segments of the population. Cilantro does, too. About 10% of the country thinks fresh Cilantro tastes like soap.  Fresh tomatoes, too. For a very small slice of the population, sliced tomatoes taste gross, like totally icky.

All because of unlucky draws from the gene pool.

Our hearts go out to these poor souls; but this also means all the more for the rest of us (!).

 

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