Eating Fresh Salad Greens From The Garden

Just a quick update on the salad greens bed I put in on February 2nd–we ate our first salad from those greens last night for dinner!  So about five weeks from the time I put seeds in the ground until the time we could eat the greens–that is fast.  I have gobs of green mustard greens ready at a baby stage, and others coming along.  I double-covered the bed with plastic when it got cold a couple of weeks ago, and just left it on.  I don’t normally water the bed, because we’ve had so much rain and the water condenses on the inside of the plastic covering, so this, outside of getting the bed ready and planting, has been a very low-work project with good results.

I plan to get another salad greens bed planted this weekend, and need to prune and tie up climbing and rambling roses, and take a look at the raspberries and see what needs pruning and thinning out.  Weather should be sunny and nice, so I hope you get outside into your garden, too!

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First Salad Greens Bed Of The Season

Okay, I know it’s really early, but it’s been over 40 degrees at night, and so I took a chance on salad greens.  Mind you, under plastic and tough greens.  This is what I planted out:

  • ‘Southern Giant Curled’ Mustard Greens
  • ‘Red Giant’ Mustard Greens
  • ‘Tyee’ Spinach
  • ‘Magenta Sunset’ Swiss Chard
  • ‘Ruby Red’ Swiss Chard
  • ‘Chioggia’ Beets
  • Arugula

Here is a video of information I made about how I start early salad greens:

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate, but so far, so good–if this works, we’ll have fresh greens for the kitchen by April!

Leave a comment, and let me know what has worked for you in terms of seed choices and row covers for early food production in your home garden.

Top Seed Picks for The 2010 Growing Season

Here is a list of some of the most reliable seeds that I have grown in the past and will continue to grow this year:

  • Salad Greens:  ‘Tyee’ spinach,  ‘Ruby Red’ Swiss Chard, ‘Chioggia’ and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets, Arugula (also called Roquette), ‘Southern Giant Curled’ Mustard Greens, ‘Red Giant’ Red Mustard Greens (also called Gai Choy), Mizuna mustard greens (also called Siu Cai, and Xiu Cai), Double Purple Orach (deep purple leaves–tastes a bit like spinach)
  • Eggplant:  ‘Nadia’ eggplant (dark purple skin), ‘Casper’ eggplant (white skin)
  • Sweet peppers:  ‘Marconi’ Sweet Italian Frying Pepper (These are long red peppers), ‘Gypsy’ peppers (yellow peppers that ripen a bit before ‘Marconi)
  • Tomatoes:  ‘Costoluto Genovese’ tomatoes(great for fresh salads), ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes (excellent for drying and for making sauce–good fresh as well), ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes (these ripen late in the season and are huge and delicious)
  • Pumpkin:  ‘Rouge Vif d’Entemt’ Cinderella pumpkin(beautiful for decorating, and good to eat)
  • Bush Beans:  ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans (lavender flowers produce purple beans that cook up green), ‘Purple Queen’ bush beans(beautiful purple flowers and stems on the plants that produce purple beans that cook up green), ‘Pencil Pod’ bush beans(chartreuse foliage, lavender flowers and yellow beans that cook up green)
  • Pole Beans:  ‘Scarlet Emperor’ Runner or Pole beans (beautiful red flowers that hummingbirds like, and great green beans), ‘Violet Podded Stringless’ Pole beans (beautiful lavender flowers and purple beans that cook up green)
  • Basil:  ‘Genovese Italian’ basil (large leaves are wonderful fresh in salads or prepared in pesto, you can also freeze the leaves for winter use)
  • Cucumbers:  ‘Green Slam’ cucumbers (These are great for fresh eating and they produced early in the season and tons of them)

Try some of these out–I’ve had good success growing them!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I read with interest last week that the temperatures were going to drop way down (today we have a high of 25 degrees, with a whopping 16 degrees overnight), so I took a few steps to protect tender plants.

–The salad greens:  Under PVC pipes  that make hoops over the beds, and then covered them with clear plastic, holding down the edges with bricks.  Of course, it has also been very windy, so I had to modify some of the bricks with larger rocks, and that seemed to work.  They’ll look a little wilted with these extreme temperatures, but should spring back when it warms up and starts raining again.

–The more tender perennials:  I covered my cut-back delphiniums, agapanthus and young phygellius plants with clear plastic and rocks.

–Annuals that never die:  I’m thinking Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescence’, which is a lovely turquoise-foliaged and purple tubular flowered beauty.  I have several baby plants and a few large plants out in the garden, so I covered those as well with plastic and rock to hold it down.  If last year was any indication,  I will lose some of these in the more open areas, but the ones tucked in beside the house in warmer pockets should survive.  I’ve had them blooming in February in some years.

I had waited til the last minute to pull up the tender bulbs, but I did get the dahlias, begonias, canna and calla lilies dug up, washed off and bagged up with labels.  I keep the mesh bags in which onions and oranges are often sold and use them for this purpose.

For another post, but worth a quick mention now–keep your bird feeders full now, and if you can provide water, do so.  The little guys, including black-capped chicadees, scrub jays and Anna’s hummingbirds that are in my garden now certainly appreciate it.

Hot Hot Weather Demands Action From The Gardener

With temperatures over 100 degrees the last few days, I have had to take extra measures to keep my newly planted seed beds and salad greens beds alive.  What that means is watering those beds 2-3 times a day.  It was so hot that many of the seeds just shut down, but now that it’s cooled off to the 90s and upper 80s, they are starting to germinate.

Others of the plants in the garden loved the hot nighttime temperatures, particularly the ‘Green Slam’ cucumbers, ‘Nadia’ and ‘Casper’ eggplant, and ‘Whitney’ sweet peppers, plus the ‘Rouge Vif d’Entemps’ , or Cinderella, pumpkin.  They all shot up in the warm weather, so that was great.

Lots of flowers on the cukes, and lots of flowers and green tomatoes, but still a little while until they are ripe to eat.  We are enjoying lovely salads nearly everyday from the garden, as well as a sampling of blueberries, raspberries, marionberries, aronia berries and a few strawberries.

Fresh Salad Greens Are Ready!

On Saturday, we had our first Cesar Salads using salad greens from my new garden bed that I planted end of March! These were some of the fresh ingredients that went into the salad from that bed:
-arugula
-‘Ruby Red’ Swiss Chard at the baby stage
-‘Tyee’ spinach
-red mustard greens
-green mustard greens
-mizuna

It was wonderful–if you haven’t tried growing salad greens, it’s really easy, so give it a try!

Here Comes the Sun, Baby!

Scheduled to be 70 degrees today–woohoo! Now is a great time to rejuvenate tired borders, which is my plan for today. When you garden in a small urban setting, this means rearranging plants in order to put the new ones in place, so I will be “rearranging” for a day or so. The cold hardy salad greens seeds I started outside under plastic have germinated, so we are well on our way to home-grown Cesear’s in approximately six weeks

If You’re In Gardening Zone 8, Then It’s Time to Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors and Out

Now, around the middle of March, is when I start my tender seedlings indoors. They include plants such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, as well as flowers, that I will use as starts out in my garden beds later in the season. Starting seeds is less expensive but more work than purchasing them from a nursery, and you get a much better varietal selection by using seeds. Some seeds require light and some require darkness for germination–delphinium seeds need darkness, for example, while some can go either way. For the either-way ones, I usually put them under lights, because bottom heat will often speed germination, and just having the lights on will help to warm up the seeds even more.

Late in the month, I also start hardy greens outside in prepared beds.  The beds are redug and weeded, then raked.  Next I add a quart and a half of complete organic fertilizer and dig it in, raking smooth.  After that I add a quarter-inch of mushroom compost on the top of the bed and rake it smooth.  Then I take my rake handle and press rows into the soil, which is where I will plant my rows of seeds.  After the seeds are sown, I cover them with some of the compost from in between the rows, and press down.  Water the seeds gently but thoroughly with a water can.  At this time of year, it is still not reliably forty degrees at night, and therefore you have to raise the temperature a bit in order to have successful germination.  In order to do this, I go to the local hardware store and purchase three half-inch pvc plumbing plastic pipes–they usually come in an eight-foot length.  These can be cut to size if needed with a hacksaw with each end cut at an angle, and then pushed into the ground creating half-circle hoops over your bed.  Then simply cover the bed with clear plastic, and hold down the edges with rocks or bricks.  As long as you water it well right after sowing, you don’t need to uncover it, because we get a ton of rain and it soaks in under the plastic, taking care of watering for you.  Plus when it does warm up during the days, condensation on the plastic also helps to keep everything nicely moist.  By keeping the plants covered, they will grow much faster, giving you homegrown salads much quicker.  Just be sure to keep an eye out for unseasonably warm days–it does sometimes shoot up to eighty.  On those days,  open up the plastic.

I use tough greens that can take a little cold, such as spinach, mustard greens, beet greens, swiss chard, arugula and others.

Good luck, and give it a try–this is easy to do!

Tme to think about ordering seeds

I do a lot of vegetable gardening, and so I have also devoted some effort into figuring out which seeds work the best for me here in my particular garden. After a few years of trial and error, this is a list of my favorites:

Tomatoes: Costoluto Genovese, San Marzano, Brandywine, Super Sweet 100 cherry tomato, Early Girl

Eggplant: Nadia, Casper

Sweet Peppers: Marconi Sweet Italian pepper, Gypsy pepper

Salad Greens: Arugula, red and green mustards, endive, ‘Ruby Red’ Swiss Chard

Beets: Bull’s Blood, Chiogga

There are lots more, but these were very prolific last year in my vegetable garden.

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