Monthly Archives: January 2012

Growing Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is a crop that gets over looked.  It’s an under loved plant.  Why?  Because most  people, gardeners have never tried it, or don’t really know what it  is.  I will have to admit that I saw it for years in the seed catalogs and always passed it over.  It just seemed odd.  Kohlrabi is on of the easiest of the brassica family to grow.  It is also known as a German turnip.  It can handle temperature extremities better than its family members and it can be pretty unique looking in the garden.  Often times you will see it listed with root crops,  but this baby grows its spherical bulb above the ground.  Kohlrabi can be boiled, mashed, and served with butter, made into fritters or added to soups and stews.  It can be eaten raw just like an apple, or sliced and tossed into a salad.  My favorite way to use kohlrabi is to replace it with the old standard ‘cabbage’ in cole slaw recipes.  It has a delicate, slightly nutty flavor, kinda similar to a turnip, only better and it is an excellent source of vitamin C.  Some even use the leaves to steam or in green drinks.  Kohlrabi usually takes only six to eight weeks to mature.  Often times I intercrop it with Brussel sprouts as it requires the same conditions as other brassicas and it will be long gone by the time the Brussel sprouts need the space.

I start to plant my kohlrabi the end of January here in Southern Utah and will continue to plant through the middle of March. White/green varieties for early sowing and  purple-skinned varieties, which are hardier,  tolerate the heat better,  later in season.  Kohlrabi prefers rich, moisture-retentive, free-draining soil.  When transplanting your starts into the ground I always add Bio-Fish nutrients, about 2 T in the hole where each new little plant will go to give it a boost.  Always mix in your nutrients/fertilizers with the soil in the hole so you don’t have direct contact with the roots and the fertilizer.  I always use organic fertilizers because they have less of a tendency to burn new transplants and they are slow release, but regardless of what you use, it’s a good habit to get into when adding fertilizer.  Firm in your transplant!  Firm it in!  Brassica likes to have a firm foundation.  Not bad, hard soil, just firm around the plant.  Give a slight tug on a leaf, if it comes up, it isn’t firmed in enough.  I like to space my plants about a foot apart.  Water in well and keep your soil evenly moist for the duration of the growing period.  If your bulb cracks, it was probably because of water fluctuations.  To much water, then not enough.  Fertilize again at three weeks with Bio-Fish, or use a liquid fertilizer.  Keep weed free.  Weeds only rob your plants of nutrients.  Dirty buggers!  Pick kohlrabi when it is about the size of a golf ball, but no bigger than a billiard ball.  Just simply pull from the ground and toss the leaves and roots into the compost.  If you are growing closely to other plants and pulling the plant up will disturb nearby companions roots, then just cut it off at ground level. 

Kohlrabi can be grown in the fall time to.  I start seeds in mid-July and plant by late August having a harvest at the end of October.  If you live in a mild climate where the summer temperatures don’t go above 90 degrees for weeks at a time you can grow it during the summer months to.

Bio-Fish Fertilizer

Liquid Fertilizer

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Casper, Here Kitty Kitty

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It has been a little while since I have mentioned anything about Casper the Perfect Cat and I guess Casper has quit the following.  People have stopped in to see Casper and see what busy things he has been up to and I have received e-mails asking about him.  After all he is a sweet little guy.  So I thought I would give you the low down on his busy life.  Often times we have gardening classes at our place and Casper likes to get involved in the learning.  Getting ready for winter I covered my garden with protective row cover, of course, Casper came to the rescue and he became a row cover weight as he quickly makes a bed with the soft lettuce below.  Big Day!  Out in the sunshine keeping the crops warm.  Hard life for a cat on the farm!  He has been helping me type out a blogs….As you can see in the picture he quickly fell asleep, but it was the thought that counted. Over worked and never enough treats!    Another occasion, he spent many an hours sewing, or at least on the sewing table adjusting himself only once during the day when I seemed to bother him when I reached for the scissors he was laying on.  And to think, we thought he would be a good mouser.  HA!   One word that often comes from my husbands mouth is, “Worthless”.  He just doesn’t fully understand Casper.  Casper has always liked baskets, high, low, inside, outside, or where ever they are he always seems to find them.  Maybe he is pursuing a career in basket weaving.  He is just taking his time studying the weaves of the baskets.  Anyway Casper is still plugging along, with his many (or not so many) tasks of the day, ever so spoiled and getting his beauty sleep.  This March Casper turns 13.   I can’t really say he has slowed down when he was always taking he time, or should I say “taking a nap”.  Enjoy his pictures and stop in and say hi to the ‘Perfect’ cat, Casper.  He will win your heart over!

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Have You Ever Grown a Fava Bean? Would You?

What the heck is a Fava Bean?  For the last several years I have added this delicious legume to my garden.  Not only is it great to add nitrogen to the soil, very cold hardy, but it is very nutritious as well.  Fava beans are one of the oldest plants under cultivation, and they were eaten in ancient Greece and Rome.  Fava beans are in the pea family, even though their name suggest they are a bean.  This is why they are cold hardy unlike other true beans.  They are popular in Mediterranean cuisine with a distinct creamy flavor.  You can eat them fresh or dry.  Dried they store well and can be added to soups or any bean dish.  Fresh, they can be added to salads and pasta dishes.  Fava beans are great steamed and served with olive oil, salt, and lemon.

Fava beans do not tolerate hot temperatures, therefore plant them as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring or in my case in USDA zone 8,  late winter, January to be exact.  Fava bean can be planted in heavy soil as long as there is good drainage and the soil has been amended with compost and a well-balanced fertilizer.  Fava beans will improve your soil, so it’s a good idea to plant them in less than perfect spots in the garden.  Soak the seeds a few hours before planting to help with germination.  Plant 1 1/2 – 2″ deep 6-9 inches apart.  I like to stake my fava beans with some old branches 2-3 ft tall stuck into the soil on either side of the plant.  Usually this is enough unless we have high winds, then a little hemp twine around the plants and stakes will do.  Fava beans are usually ready in 4-6 months to harvest.  You will be surprised how neat they look in the garden.  The beans grow on bushy plants with tapering leaves, yielding anywhere from 25 to 50 pods per plant. The pods resemble pea pods in shape, although they are much larger and lined with a pillowy white material that protects the seeds inside.  Give plenty of water throughout the growing season.  Pinch off the tops of the plants when the first pods have begun to form.  This aids pod formation and discourages blackfly.  Pick the pods when they have become swollen.  You can see a slight definition of each bean inside the pod.  Do not allow the pods to be too mature because they will become leathery and tough.  Continuous harvesting will extend the crop season.  Broad beans (another name for fava) are beast picked and used fresh.  Any extras can be frozen or dried.

Once your plants are tired, retire them back into the soil.  You may need to chop them up a bit, but you can just till them in or add them to your compost pile.  Whatever you choose, don’t toss them into the trash.  These guys are valuable!  The smaller the pieces the faster they will decompose.  Favas are commonly used as a cover crop. They are big nitrogen fixers.   Now why wouldn’t you grow these beauties? 

Try this:

Quinoa, Avocado and Fava Been Salad

1 cup quinoa, 1 lb shelled fresh or frozen fava beans, 2 med. lemons, 2 ripe avocado, 2 garlic cloves, 2 bunches of breakfast radishes halved lengthwise, 1 cup purple basil leaves chopped, 1 T ground cumin, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook quinoa and rinse with cold water and leave to dry.  Toss fava beans into a pan of boiling water and boil for 30 seconds and immediately drain in colander and leave to dry, then press each bean with your fingers to remove the skins and discard these.  Take the lemons and use a small sharp knife to slice off the top and base.  Stand on long end and cut down the sides, following the curve to remove the skin and white pith.  Over a large mixing bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the individual segments into the bowl.  Squeeze the juice from the membrane into the bowl with the segments.  Peel and stone avocados.  Slice thinly, then add to the bowl and toss to cover in the lemon juice.  Once the quinoa is dry, transfer it to the bowl.  Add the fava beans, garlic, radishes, half the basil, cumin, olive oil, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently and garnish with remaining basil.  Great Healthy Spring Recipe!

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Planning Your Garden For the New Season

I love the beginning of January because the garden doesn’t require too much work, the days are colder (typically) which makes it easier for me to stay inside and work on planning my garden for the year.  I love picking out the seeds  I am going to grow for the entire year.  Usually I choose to many for my space as does most avid gardeners.  We will probably never learn!  There are always several new varieties I just can’t resist or wait to put into the soil and try.  As always, some will become favorites and some will probably be put on the “notty” list. 

I always start out with a diagram of my garden including measurements.  I use grid paper and a pencil.  I then look at last years garden design and see what I grow where and make sure I don’t grow the same crop in the same place as I did the year before.  If you are just starting a new garden, you won’t have to worry about this, this year!  Then I take inventory of my seeds & plants I will be growing for the entire year, Spring, Summer & Fall.  If I like a design that I used last year then I will use it, If not, time for a new adventure. Just so you know, I have never used the exact same plan.  Being a seasoned gardener I know which are companion plants (plants that grow well together) and I try to group these together while keeping the enemies away.  If you are new to gardening, I suggest you look up companion plants.   Know the planting times of each crop you grow.  Most of these are easily found on the back of the seed packet.  Plant wisely!  Always try something new!  If you are planting lettuce in the Spring, once it’s gone you can plant a late crop of corn, bush beans or a fall crop like garlic in its place.  I never have an empty space in my garden for very long.  I have raised beds that are three-foot wide.   One of my beds for example has a sturdy trellis on the back side which I will be growing vine peas up it and in front I will be growing shorter crops that won’t shade out the peas like lettuce, spinach, baby bok choy, radishes.  These crops will be gone in my area around the first of June.  At this time I will pop in some late tomatoes along the trellis and carrots and beets in the front.  Another example is where I grow my garlic.   It stays in the ground from October till mid to late June and I amend the soil with compost and nitrogen and plant corn in its place.  In years past I have done large areas of certain crops in my long raised beds, but this year I will be growing in smaller 3-4 foot sections so I can have a bigger variety of veggies, just not as many of each type.  I like to keep taller plants in the back and shorter ones in the front.  experiment!  Have fun and record you work!

Don’t forget to add some flowers to your garden.  A few popped in here and there will add color, attract beneficials, and add interest.  Herbs are another item you will want to add to your garden.  You will always see basil growing near the tomatoes because they do so well together.  At some ends of my beds I have small perennial herbs.  It’s nice to have your own “fresh” herbs whenever you need them.

Another thing to think about is your soil.  If you have heavy compacted soil in one area and loamy soil in another, you may want to plant your root crops in the loamy soil so the root crop won’t have to struggle as much.  With time your heavy clay soil, with some amending will become nice and loamy as well.

I have several perennials in my garden like artichoke, horseradish and rhubarb.  It’s a good idea to place them on the end or corners of your beds or rows so when you till the earth you don’t disturb them.  Remember to plant things further away from these larger crops so they don’t shade out your annual veggies and flowers.

When you have an abundance of veggies and you don’t have the room to plant them, Think about adding some to your flower beds or in pots near the patio or porch.  I love to add pepper and eggplants to my flower beds.  Tuscan Kale is absolutely beautiful in the back of flower beds.  This is called “edible gardening”.  Be adventurous and inventive.  Try something new and unheard of.  That is what a true gardener does!

Organic Seeds

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