gardenchatter

Garden adventures and advice…


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Sprouting Brussels Sprouts

I’m going to be perfectly honest, as much as it pains me. Last year, for the first time ever, I decided to grow Brussels sprouts. In pots. About 6 plants per pot.

I can almost hear the collective chuckle from those of you that are familiar with or know how to grow Brussels.

Here’s a picture of one of my plants this year:

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It’s a good 3 feet high and almost as wide. So…imagine 6 of these in a pot. They didn’t survive beyond about 4 inches and didn’t even come close to sprouting sprouts. It was quite an aha moment for me when I toured the Royal Botanical Gardens last fall and saw how these interesting veggies should be grown.

Brussels like the cooler weather, so start them early, indoors, if you can. Six weeks or so before the last frost for your area. Plant the seedlings 12 to 24 inches apart (and not in pots) outdoors when the frost risk is over and give them plenty of water, fertilizer and sunshine. I had mine in the ground the first of June and am harvesting now.

Our summer here was extremely hot and dry (unusual for this area), so not the best climate for Brussels, but I certainly had more success this time and will definitely grow them again next year. The excess heat tends to stop the sprouts from forming a compact ball, l so I did end up with some unformed, loose leaves.

They mature from the bottom up along the stalk and as they reach about 1 inch in diameter are ready to harvest. Or you can wait and cut the entire stalk.

These actually look big and showy in the garden and are fun to grow.

However, I haven’t completely given up on my pot theory, but maybe I’ll try just one in a pot next year…

Brussels sprouts on one of my plants, and a full stalk from another cut down.


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Tomato Harvest

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I had an exceptional tomato season this year. All grown from seed, I tried a few new ones and stuck with some old favorites. The winners? Juane Flamme – this one is my favorite. It’s a non-stop producer with fabulous flavor. Grew two beefsteaks this year – Big Beef (outstanding!) and Black Krim (I was told by someone it’s the best tomato they’ve had). 

The cherry’s didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but I may have had them too crowded. However, there was still plenty to go around. 

The picture above is from an evening veggie harvest – there’s nothing quite like walking around the garden at the end of the day collecting dinner.

The tomatoes were started in the greenhouse the first week of April and went into the garden the first week of June. Planting was later than usual this year due to a very (very!) long winter and late start to spring. 

Overall the vegetable gardens did quite well, but as always, the tomatoes are my pride and joy. 

 

Here’s a list of what was grown this year and their features:

Big Beef – Large/Beefsteak

An All-America Selections Winner, Big Beef is often considered the finest all-around tomato for the vegetable garden. It’s extra meaty with a true homegrown flavor and just the right balance of sugars and acids. Big Beef produces extra large, “beefy” fruit and these large, vigorous plants are quite manageable when staked or grown in large cages. These tomatoes need plenty of water, and prefer six hours or more of direct sun each day.

 

Black Krim – Large Beefsteak

One of the best black tomatoes. Rich, sweet complex taste with a hint of saltiness. These beefsteak tomatoes are mahogany coloured with green shoulders and green gel around the seeds. The slices are beautiful in a tomato salad. Yield is high. Water evenly to reduce concentric cracking.

 

Japanese Black Trifele – Large-Medium Pear Shape

Pear-shaped fruit has green-streaked shoulders, deepening to a burnished mahogany and finally to a darkened, nearly black base. The meaty interior has similar, opulent shades and an incomparable, almost indescribably complex and rich flavor to match. The fruit reach 2 1/2-3 inches long and wide and are very crack-resistant. Despite the name, this tomato has its origins in Russia. This one didn’t work well for me, only ended up with a few.

 

Juane Flamme – Medium (A larger cherry size)

A French Heirloom salad tomato with persimmon orange skin and flesh. They almost look like an apricot. Plants are incredibly productive and early, and the flavour of Jaune Flamme is amazing. It’s full bodied with a hint of citrus. My favorite.

 

Container Bush – Cherry

This scrumptious hybrid is specially bred for high yields of heavy fruits with juicy-sweet, rich tomato flavor on space-saving 3 foot plants. Perfect for pots and patio containers. However, this plant is determinate (fruits appear once throughout the season) vs. indeterminate (produce fruit throughout the season).

 

Black Cherry – Cherry

Heirloom cherry tomato with a rich mahogany-purple color and sweetly complex flavor. The round, 1-inch fruits grow in abundant heavy clusters on vigorous, fast growing indeterminate plants.

 

Isis Candy – Cherry

Bicolor rose-red fruits with yellow-gold marbling have delicious flavor that is wonderfully rich and fruity, not just sugary sweet. Strong, productive vines. I’ve read it’s a consistent top cherry winner at heirloom tomato tastings.

 


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Egyptian Onion

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A few years ago a friend gave me an Egyptian onion to add to my garden. I honestly didn’t know what to do with it, so I planted it among the perennials and waited to see what it did. After watching it grow and develop I decided to do a little research. And I’m sure glad I did – now we’re enjoying these onions in the kitchen!

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Native to Pakistan and India, but later adopted by Egypt, the Egyptian onion (Allium cepa var. proliferum) is a unique and unusual member of the onion family. The Egyptians believed that the strong fragrance would protect them, keep them free from disease and awaken their dead. Etchings of the plant are found in Egyptian tomb drawings as far back as 3,000 BC, illustrating their reverence of its perceived power.

For home gardeners, it is a perennial vegetable that provides interest and edibles from early spring right through to fall frost. As soon as the scent of spring is in the air, green shoots emerge without regard for any lingering snow and do not stop sprouting until reaching their full 2 to 3 foot height.

Called a tree onion because of the small bulbils (also known as topsets or sets) that form on its tall stem and a walking onion due to its distinctive propagation method, the Egyptian onion is one of the first plants to awaken each spring.

As the round, hollow onion stalks thicken and grow they can be snipped and eaten, similar to chives, but if left alone will develop small white flowers that by midsummer begin to fade as tiny, curled leaves and numerous small onions, or topsets, begin to grow at the stalk tip. New leaves will rise out of these topsets, which in turn produce further small onions, or bulbils at their tip (hence, the tree-like look of the tree onion name). As the weight of the onions overwhelm the stalk, it bows to the ground, and the young onions lay in the soil, root and form a new plant just inches away, almost as if stepping, or walking away from the mother plant. Gardeners can leave a few topsets on the plant each year to increase the overall onion yield as they randomly drop, or cut the onions from the stalk and plant in a preferred area. The Egyptian onion also forms numerous bulbils at ground level that can be removed without hurting the plant, providing more onions for the cook and more plants for the gardener.

The underground bulbs multiply each growing season and require dividing every few years. When planting both bulb divisions and the small topsets, avoid beds that have had recent onion crops, to help reduce the risk of transferring any pests or diseases to the young plants that may have been left behind by the previous tenants.

This cool-season crop prefers a well-drained site, high in organic matter with a pH ranging from 6.2 to 6.8. Easily grown in full sun or part shade, the Egyptian onion will sprout to 3 feet high and spread up to 2 feet wide at maturity. Best planted in the spring or fall, the Egyptian onion will provide years of fresh chive-like greens and dozens of shallot size onions all season long. Frost tolerant, Egyptian onions grow in plant hardiness zones 4 through 10 and will survive in zone 3 with a good layer of mulch for protection over the winter. Plant bulbs 1 inch deep, spaced 12 inches apart and keep them well watered; regular, even moisture will provide higher, healthy yields, and a pleasant, mild tasting onion.


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New Raised Beds

Finally got around to building a couple of large raised beds yesterday to start growing veggies next year. Right now, most veggies are grown here in pots and overall do quite well. Tomatoes, peppers and snow peas are coming along nicely and I’ve created a “wall” of pole beans by placing 3 large pots side by side, complete with tall bamboo poles for the vines to twine along. The plants are thriving right now, and with any luck, there will be beans a plenty over the next few weeks. The squash and cucumbers are doing well and before long will fill up the corner with their twisty vines. (Squash is my favorite!)

The raised beds will allow for easy maintenance gardening, good drainage and don’t take up the entire planting area, so there’s still plenty of room for the other flowers and shrubs. The height also will help keep hungry critters out and will allow for planting just a little earlier in the season next year as the soil warms up – usually quicker than the ground does. Weed control becomes less of an issue – because the plants are close together in a raised bed, as they grow they shadow the soil, preventing those annoying weeds from sprouting – they need sun, and without it, won’t grow.

And raised beds just keep the area neat and tidy looking.

We’re composting like crazy to add nutrients into the beds before the winter – and will have it all ready to go once the snow is gone next spring and the green begins to reappear.

I’m already looking forward to the start of the January delivery of seed catalogs.


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Planting Cool Weather Vegetables

Now is the time to get those cool weather vegetables in the ground.

Plant beets, radishes, lettuces, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, endive, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, mustard, onions. parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, rutabagas and turnips for early summer harvesting.

Plant again once the heat of summer wears off for a fall harvest as well.

And remember once the fall hits to plant garlic for a summer of fresh garlic. Garlic needs to be planted in the fall, goes dormant over the winter and comes to life in the spring.  For garlic planting tips, see my ehow.com article titled  “Does Garlic Grow Underground Like An Onion”.

Today I planted about 200 radish seeds that will be ready to eat in 3 weeks.

Oh, and get those sweet pea flowering vine seeds in the ground for some early summer color!