Spinach comparison

This year I’m trying three different spinach (four if you count the not-spinach New Zealand spinach) – Monstreux de Viroflay, Bloomsdale, and Space.

My past favourite has been the French heirloom Viroflay. It has large leaves, germinates readily, is super tasty, and overwintered two years ago, much to my surprise. My one frustration is that it bolts so easily.

Bloomsdale is an heirloom variety I picked up from a local seed company. I wanted a spinach that was more adapted to my neck of the woods rather than France. It’s fine. I find it mediocre in every respect.

Space is a new-to-me variety that came recommended out of my readings and scribbled into my journal without a source. At any rate when I was seed shopping, I spotted the magical words “slow bolting.”

Top L Space spinach. Top R Bloomsdale spinach. Bottom Monstreux de Viroflay spinach.

We’re 60 days from seeding under lights, transplanted out after Earth day, and as advertised, only the Space has not formed seed heads. Space spinach is the smallest of the three. I can’t say the taste beats the Viroflay, but I will be eating more of it for longer. It is an F1 hybrid so no seed saving.

I shall keep looking for a flavourful heirloom that is slow to bolt. Any suggestions?

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Lettuce update

For whatever reason, lettuces grow well in my garden.  This exasperates my sister who can’t grow lettuce but as I remind her, can grow onions like nobody’s business.

This year I’m growing a bunch of saved seed lettuce and a new lollo lettuce called Fortress.  Approximately 60 days after seeding indoors and transplanting out, here they are:

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Clockwise Top L: looseleaf; red romaine, Buttercrunch; Fortess

I transplanted these out in midApril which was still coolish so I covered the bed with fleece row cover.  I left the cover on during some warm afternoons which was a mistake because they all had some crispy brown leaves when I finally took the fleece off.  I removed the damages leaves, and thankfully they have bounced back.  Interesting that the saved seed plants are much bigger than the purchased seed.  No fertilizer has been applied other than a top dressing of compost in the fall.

I’m definitely having a salad for lunch.

Caught in the act!

Context:  We have two cats.  One is a nibbler especially fond of the shoelaces on my dress shoes.  Poor thing, now that the laces are no more she had to go hunting for nourishment elsewhere.  Note: we do feed our cats regularly, despite what they will tell you.

Prior offences:  I had noticed in April that the pea shoots in the modules closest to the table were much shorter than the rest of the shoots.  Then I cleaned the litter box and deduced why.  I mounted barriers in front of the seedlings.  The peas recovered.

Redhanded:  This morning when I went down to water the seedlings, CAT had stealthily squeezed in between my barricades and was munching on my shallot seedlings!!

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Suspect in custody.  

M.O.:  Now I wonder if the leeks that failed last year were in fact failures, or merely appetizers….

New New Zealand Spinach

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Seeds and seedlings of New Zealand spinach.

When is a spinach not a spinach?  When it’s New Zealand spinach!

This is another “new to me” plant I’m trying out this year.  I was inspired by Zone 5 gardener Patrick from One Yard Revolution who grows this green in his backyard.

Reading up on starting this plant from seed, I followed advice to knick the seed husk (which is rather soft) and soak it in warm water prior to planting.  Seemed to work as I got seedlings around 2 weeks after planting.  I kept the little pot on top of the water heater as they are supposed to need heat to germinate.  They have slow and inconsistent germination so I wasn’t too disappointed that I only got 3 seedlings from 8 seeds.  More info here.

The silver lining to the fuss and bother of germinating is that this tastes like and can be used like (purportedly) spinach.  It is heat tolerant so it will come to harvest after my other spinaches have finished.

Any advice on eating and/or growing this plant?

Challenging Parsnip Assumptions

Parsnip seed should be purchased fresh each year.  Yah, and it shouldn’t be snowing in April either.

In gardening, as in life, there are many ways to do things, and not many black and white rules.  That’s what makes things interesting!

Back to parsnips.

I had inadvertently left a couple parsnips undug in Mom’s garden. The next year they came up and started to flower.  Aha!  Opportunity for seed saving!

We got A LOT of seed from those two parsnips.  Much more than we could ever grow the next year.  Being frugal (meaning unable to throwaway seed) I gave away as much as I could and kept the rest.

Three years later, I still have a lot of parsnip seed.  I diligently purchased new seed because I *should* but, for interest’s sake, I put a bunch of old seed out to pregerminate.

This happened.

Pregerminated parsnip seed
Germination from 3 year old saved parsnip seed.

Great germinating parsnip seeds!  Long story shortened, I planted the old seed out with my new seeds and will continue to try things in the garden just to see what happens.

What garden truisms have you busted?

Chit, Cut, Plant.

The wonderful thing about gardening is that there are many ways to garden.

Take our humble potato for example. One can plant it in ground, above ground, in bags, in crates, etc.. One can plant many different types of potatoes for different types of cooking, e.g., boiling, mashing, frying, roasting. One can eat them hot or cold. One can harvest throughout the growing season, earlies, mid earlies, mid and late season. And, they store well! What a lovely vegetable.

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German butterball, Kennebec, Caribe seed potatoes.

This year I purchased certified seed potatoes from an in-province farm: Eagle Creek Farms up by Borden, Alberta. They came last week — late start to the season for everyone! This year I will plant a kg. each of Caribe (a purple skin, early), Kennebec, (a white flesh, mid season), and one that I’m most anxious to eat, German Butterball (a delicious yellow fleshed, mid to late season).

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Chitted Kennebec

I have always chitted potatoes, not necessarily out of conscious action — usually they’ve already sprouted by the time it’s planting time here in zone 4.

However, these purchased potatoes needed chitting. The jury seems divided on whether or not this is necessary. I’m going with chitting because it will speed the growing process along, a strong vote for the pro column where I live.

Cutting up the seed potatoes also seems a bit contentious. I’m going with Carol Deppe’s side of things from her excellent book “The Resilient Gardener.”

“Potatoes with short, thick sprouts are ideal. Larger potatoes should be cut into smaller pieces for seed. If left whole, the big potato forms a huge wad of rotting slime right down there among your spuds. In addition, more than three sprouts can lead to too many stems and lots of small, crowded, poorly growing spuds.”

Excerpt From: Deppe, Carol. “The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times.” Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010

Carol grows in the Northwest USA. She does not treat the cut spuds with sulfur, nor does she let the cut pieces “heal.” I also cut my spuds simply because I want more potatoes! Inadvertently I will let them heal this year b/c I will be unable to plant them for a day or two.

How do you all grow your potatoes?

Well that didn’t work…

To avoid flea beetle damage to crucifers, …”Floating row covers or other screening can exclude the beetles during seedling establishment.”

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Flea beetle damage on covered Pak Choi seedling.  😡

Oh well.

The good news?  The other cabbages under the row cover are doing really well!  Yah, so not a failure, more like this Pak Choi was a sacrificial catch crop?  I did transplant more Pak Choi by the leeks, no cover, so maybe the flea beetles will be confused or full.  I *hope* that these first ones will recover because I really enjoy eating Pak Choi, something I have in common with the flea beetles.

Other advice is to use diatomaceous earth and/or neem oil or a flame thrower.  What strategies work for you?