Monday, December 31, 2007

Root Crops - some new, some old

Chicory flower in the background, beets and turnips in the foreground coldframe.

Root crops are great to grow. They take up very little room compare with sprawlers like winter squash and have a great yield. They grow well in the north and they store well in my cellar downstairs.

Here is a low down on what I grew this year, what I'll grow next year, and what I'd love to try in no particular order.

1. Beets

I don't have much luck getting big beets but I think that's because I space them too closely, and don't thin judiciously enough. I've tried:

a. Lutz Greenleaf
b. Detroit red
c. Burpee's Golden

Grow again? Yes. I am still hunting for my favourite variety but I'm betting on Lutz Greenleaf because of its large sized root, reputation for storing well and plentiful greens crop.

2. Parsnips

The first year I tried parsnips, they didn't germinate. Since then, I've learned that the seed needs to be very fresh as it doesn't last long. Now, I grow from fresh seed every year, and have had great crops every time. They seem less bothered by wireworm, store fantastically well in ground and in the root cellar, as well as being sweet and delicious regardless of the growing conditions so far in my garden. I've grown:

a. Hollow Crown

b. Harris Early Model (I think)

Grow Again? Absolutely! I really like the flavour of hollow crown but I'm not partial to either yet.

3. Turnips

My experience with turnips has been limited to Goldina turnip which is a re-selected golden fleshed variety. I have nothing but good things to say about this turnip. It is vigorous, good looking, tasty and stores well. I love its pleasantly bitter taste in summer but my hubby does not. At any rate, after a few good frosts, it is very mild and sweet. The colour is also a lovely addition to the rainbow of root crop colours. I've tried:

a. Goldina

Grow Again: Yes! I've also recieved some seeds of Orange Jelly turnip from Bifucated Carrot and hope that their summer taste pleases my hubby more!

4. Carrots

I've been growing carrots since I've been gardening. My best tips are to water well during germination, thin well if you are interested in a good sized carrot and above all to have loose friable soil unless you try some of the round or stubby nosed carrots. Remove all rocks and clay chunks, ammend with organic matter or sand if you need too to at least a depth of 6 inches. In my garden, it is hard to get a really sweet carrot which I am still working on but it may have something to do with soil acidity. I've tried:

a. Various nantes types
b. Dragon
c. Oxheart
d. Unnamed varieties

Grow again: Yes, but I must find out how to grow sweeter carrots.

5. Potatoes

I find that the skin on new potatoes has a distinct taste that strikes me as poisoness and have done so all my life. Most people don't know what I'm going on about. At any rate, it means that I am less ga-ga about new potatoes than most though I do enjoy them. I've grown a number of varities and have found them all satisfying including:

a. Banana
b. Russian Blue
c. Carleton
d. Cherry Red
e. Grocery store volunteers
f. Kennebec

Grow again: No. I've had pretty good luck growing potatoes, but I have limited garden space and do not plan on using it to grow maincrop pototoes which require not only a substaintial amount of space for yearly needs, but also care to prevent various pests and diseases. I would prefer to grow other root crops in place of them until I get more space.

6. Jeruselum Artichokes

Is it fair to say that one grows JAs? Or do they grow themselves. Certainly I spend some time harvesting them. I've only grown one variety purchased by someone else from an organic produce store so I don't know the variety but it is at least 10ft tall with insignificant flowers and spectacular yields.

Grow again: I have no choice! They are restrained by a walkway and a brick wall.

7. Salsify

I am in the process of discovering this. The salsify that I planted in the perennial bed grew fairly well and I'm hoping will produce flower this year and reseed itself. Next year, I'll harvest.

8. Scorzonera

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this PERENNIAL root crop. According to ..., the author of Perennial Vegetables, the young leaves are edible and taste something like spinach. It also has a nice yellow flower.

9. Skirret

This is another PERENNIAL root crop I'd love to try but ideally I could get ahold of a plant division so I could know the properties of this variable plant beforehand. It grows clusters of roots stored and cooked similarly to carrots though some claim it has an inedible core.

10. Burdock

Another root I have no experience with.

10. Earth Chestnut

I've ordered seeds!

11. Chufa (link for animal fodder use)

I will not be growing this crop again. It produced fantastically well, looked great but cleaning, processing and storing required more time than I had. If I had some equipment, it might be different. Also, it would make a great crop for foraging animals.

Grow again: no

12. Chinese Artichoke

The tubers that I orderd from this member of the mint family are growing well but I haven't harvested them yet. They are dimunitive plants so far.

13. Hardy Yam

Another intriguing plant listed in perennial vegetables that I know little about. It seems to have a mixed reputation. If you have an experience (or know if it grows here, have a supplier, all the rest...), let me know.

15. Dandelion

I grow this every year ;-) but I haven't tried any yet. This year!

16. Celariac

Though technically a swollen stem, I include it because it stores pretty well the same as a root. You have to start it early, it looks pathetic and you wonder how such tiny little seedlings will ever become the ugly giants you see in the stores. Then you plant and hope. It grows and grows and grows. I've only tried:

a. Prague Giant

Grow again: I've no complaints. It's versitle, tasty, and has stored very well so far. It also makes nice little celery like stems for you if it sprouts.

17. Chicory

I grow it but I've never tried it. I think I'll make roasted chicory and dandelion root...

18. Groundnut / Apios

The seeds I was given did not germinate last year, but I'm trying some different techniques next year. It looks quite pretty in my friends garden and supposively tastes good too.

19. Hamburg rooted parsley

Germination failure. Next year. Always next year.

20. Turnip rooted chevril

As far as I'm concerned, this is a mythical vegetable. Anyone out there grow it? It appears different from Earth Chestnut but they both are related to chevril. Anyone?

21. Horseradish

Another great and easy perennial that some might consider more of a condiment instead of a vegetable (including myself). I grow it every year as if I could stop growing it... it grows near the JAs.

22. Radish

Never met a radish that I liked but I grow it to ward off the critters.

23. Sweet Potatoes

Will I grow them again? Yes, oh yes oh yes. I had a great year with them harvest wise. They cured better than I expected given my unconventional technique, and taste fabulous! I've tried:

a. George Jet

b. ?? I was sent a red skinned, cream/pink floury fleshed one.

Grow again: Yes!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Next year's garden - success and failure
The alliums

A series of posts discussing my feverish garden planning.


The alliums

Every year, I have grown onions: Onion sets, onion from seeds, started onions from flats. Every year, I have harvested onions: Big onions, small onions, onions riddled with wireworm.

You have to start the seeds early, space properly, weed judiciously, and hope they store well. Even though, I always start lots, I find we run out of onions too soon. In order to grow enough for our families needs, I think I'd have to devote a quarter of the garden to them, and there are other plants that I would prefer to grow. They also are insistent on having lots of light, water and food and little competition. Not only that but they are outbreeders, meaning I don't save the seed and their seed viability is low meaning that I have to buy new seed often.

All in all, I have decided that we would stop growing (and therefore cook less with) onions, but instead grow (and cook with) many other members of the allium family.

The Perennials

Chives: Super easy to grow, self seeding, with attractive, edible flowers, this plant is a must for any herb garden. Just clip few off a handful of slender leaves to add to your sauce or salad when needed. Garlic Chives is a vigorous cousin but is a bit too boistorous for some gardens - use liberally as a pot herb and deadhead to prevents numerous volenteers.

Topsetting onions. Also known as walking onions. These onions form bulbs at the top of stems that bend to the ground and root. Use these as you would pearl onions. You can also use them as green onions and best of all you can eat the bulb itself which is not huge but big enough.

Potato onions or multiplier and shallots: Last year, I stuck some shallot bulbs in the ground and only two came up. Apparently, they behave rather like garlic by splitting and then growing bigger. According to at least one source, multiplier onoins have a two year cycle - the first year forming bulblets and the second year these grow fatter. You could harvest some and replant the rest. They also keep well.

Bunching onions: I haven't grown these yet either but plan on dedicating part of my garden to them. They are perennial, productive, early and tasty. Oh and they are easy to grow! Hmm.. maybe I'll give part of my polytunnel garden to them. Next to the chicory perhaps.

Garlic: As I was writing this, I realized that garlic is a perennail too. I grow it successfully every year and add to my varities by purchasing locally grown heirloom garlic at markets. Using locally grown varities increases my chances of success. I need to grow lots of garlic too but I happily devote space to it. Most of my garlic is hardneck so instead of braiding the necks for storage, I tie them together and them hang them somewhere dry and room temperature. You have to love veggies that store at room temperature and low humidity. After harvesting, break apart the bulbs that you won't be using and replant the cloves to have a new crop of bulbs next year.


Leeks - Isn't it great that leeks are the only allium that I haven't listed as a perennial? Many leek varities are very, very cold hardy. They will overwinter in most environments (to ensure this, mulch heavily with leaves in the late fall). They can be harvested as baby leeks, as big leeks at the end of the season and again in the spring.

Despite the fact that I have listed leeks as not a perennial (it's biennial), I intend on making a 'perennial bed' for it. Ammended with lots of goodies, I will let the leeks overwinter then drop seed. Then I'll transplant or thin the seedlings. We'll see how it goes.


Root Cause on perennial onions - lots of varities discussed

Some perennial onions I have never heard of!

How to grow shallots by one of my favourite veggie info blogs: Vegetable Garden Tips

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas fellow plant bloggers


For those of you dreaming of a white christmas.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Overwintering peppers - another blog!

I love garden experimenters and here is one who grows peppers in a polytunnel year-round in France:

Mas du Diable

They have a beautiful blog, property and site! (Can I move there with you guys?)

My peppers

Currently, my peppers are fighting off a small infestation of aphids! I have been giving them weekly sprayings of mild soapy water and then washing them off but still the critters remain. They are concentrated on the weaker 'long cayenne' plant. Let us call that 'the fall guy'. The fatali is almost unaffected.

According to at least one site, I should let them drip dry with the soapy solution on them? I have been rinsing them off pretty quickly. I think I'll leave the soap on longer next time.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Hello in there little peppers. The white stuff at the foreground is you guessed it, the smoothering white of winter. I mean snow.


More on Aphids on indoor Pepers at Urban Chiles

Where are you coldframe?

This picture goes out to Gardinista (blog worth a visit - north of north gardening), who had the audacity to claim that Ottawa did not have serious winters!!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The path we dug out for the post man.

Here is the path to the coldframes... By the way, the snow is at about 3 ft!!!! - insert appropriate unhappy sound as you imagine yourself over knee deep in snow as you go to empty your compost.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
To all you people that wanted a white christmas, enough already!

Note that you have to dig down to get to the snowframe... I mean coldframe.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I hate to see how high the snow cliffs will climb by the end of the season around this 2ft. coldframe.

I punctured the plastic peaked polytunnel thingy, normally known as the spaceship, around here. Reason to make sure that you didn't bring the metal tipped snow shovel with you! Taping was not an option as it is too cold for the glue to stick so I stuffed plastic bags in the rips which seems to have solved the problem for now.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
You might be able to make out the white plastic bags from the snow.

But I know you are wondering is there really anything green and unfrozen in there?

Ummm... sort of?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Packed with 2inches of leaves (not enough)

The Kholrabi leaves weren't entirely frozen. In fact, they felt quite healthy and leathery yesterday so today I harvested it for you - A big old hunk of ice.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Would you like some Kholrabi cubes with that drink?

Leaves in pretty good condition, swollen stem, frozen. It did not taste too bad though. When I de-thawed it in hot water, it had the texture of frozen carrots. I would throw it in a soup or stew.

The frost seemed to come from the ground which is a problem I have been having with my season extension project and is why I have a new project: the ground insulated polytunnel.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Storage Veggies - celariac

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This odd vegetable is called celariac and is as the name suggests related to celery. It has a swollen stem which stores well into the winter, or so I'm told. This is the first year I try it and right now it is piled in the same box with the parsnips that survived the wrath of the cutworm. I had intended on brining in a box of turnips and carrots too but the ground froze quickly and I wasn't able to fully pack down my 'leaf frame' (think cold frame with leaves) in time. Anyhow, they should overwinter for food in the spring. The same lack of time this year meant I hastily stored my roots in plain old garden soil which you aren't supposed to do but it has worked for me every single time I've tried this technique.

My experiment so far:
In storage

Sweet Potatoes (cool, not cold after curing) - keeping well
Celariac (cold room, above freezing) - keeping well
Parnips (cold room, above freezing) - keeping well
Jeruselum Artichokes (experimental storage in soil in cold room) - keeping well
Squash (dry, room temperature) - keeping well
Tomatillos (dry, room temperature in husks) - keeping well
Tomatoes, winterkeeper (dry, room temperature) - a little whizened but still good
Potatoes - We ate most of them...
Onions - gone, must grow more
Garlic (dry, room temperature) - keeping well
Kale (outside getting chilly) - still tasty in soup
Dried beans and peas (dry, cool) - excellent
Turnips and carrots - in frozen ground but usually fine
Cabbage (fridge) - excellent
Beets - last I checked some were in good condition - the leaves were not frozen - in my spaceship (hoophouse thingy)

I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hey what's with the long period between posts?

I admit it. I've been cheating. I have another blog. But I still love gardening. Really. It's just not very inspiring now under two feet of snow. And well, the other blog is so new and exciting and why don't I just introduce you:

Left School

Yes, it's a homeschool blog but not just any. No, it's secular and lefty and new! So if you have no interest whatsoever in checking out this other subject matter, fear not. I will be plant crazy before long.