Monday, April 11, 2011

Some greens, cole crops, parsnip, and watering seedlings

Again, only spinach, 1 pound, but bok choi and lettuce are not far away.  One spinach plant (double choice hybrid) showed some damage on the growing tips.  That may be a result of a recent warm spell when the temperature inside the greenhouse reached 83 degrees.  It seemed that the greenhouse was no longer serving any purpose, so I removed it and put one of my homemade 4’x8’ cages over the bed.  I built two of these cages three years ago out of concern for the abundant rabbit population, not wanting to offer them a buffet of greens. Rabbits haven’t been a big problem in the garden, at least they don’t touch the brassicas, but why tempt them?

This year I’m starting sets of cole crops on a 12 day cycle.   Usually 4-6 plants are seeded, selecting from broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, bok choi, and cauliflower.  The first set was set into the greenhouse bed on Feb 19.  In the pic above there are 2 kohlrabi and 3 baby bok choi mixed with the lettuce and spinach (and yes that's my shadow in the picture).   The second set went into the brassica bed a few weeks later and is doing well, actually not far behind the first set.  The third set will go into the same bed after the storms pass through today.  The fourth set is not yet showing true leaves.  Seeds for the fifth set will be planted tomorrow.  Because bed space is not large I usually set out just one broccoli per set and plant it north of the other plants.  I find broccoli is something of a space hog for what you get from it.  I’ve been planting a variety called Major (Pinetree seeds) but the next set I'll plant Gypsy, a more heat tolerant variety of broccoli.  The previous two years I grew Green Gonzales cabbage from Johnny’s.  The smallish head has excellent flavor, nutty and sweet, but this year the seeds did not germinate.  Yes I should do some viability tests but end up using trial and error.   I bought Burpee’s Earliana cabbage at Lowe’s to replace it.  I really like kohlrabi, raw or cooked, and the starchy bulb provides relief from the leafy greens mostly available in early spring.  I also seed some radish at the ends of the squash beds but am not a big fan. 
It was time to plant parsnip.  Every year I plant more, this year about 6 feet of bed, and even thought about planting the entire bed but saved some room for a few rutabaga plants.  Not only does it have great flavor, although some would not agree, but the tap roots go deep, break up the soil and pull up nutrients.  I scraped out about a two inch wide row to what looked like ½” deep and planted the seeds in a stagger fashion.   After the rows were seeded I put the other cage over this bed.  Last year squirrels kept digging in the bed before the parsnip came up, which can take 2-3 weeks .  They destroyed a lot of seedlings.   I’m starting to believe that squirrels do this just to torment humans but have no proof.  

The self-watering seed trays have worked better than expected.  They can go a minimum of a week without watering, and the capillary mat gives the cells sufficient water without saturating the soil in the cells.  I discussed this setup in one of my first posts (Feb 18) but don’t think anyone read it at the time.  Three ½” PVC pieces are attached to the bottom of the tray with hex head screws from the top.  The end edges of the tray are slit with a knife and the ends of a capillary mat are pushed through the cut and folded underneath the tray.  This tray is then set into a solid flat (first make sure this flat doesn’t leak).  Water is added into the top flat (it will percolated into the reservoir flat) until some standing water is just visible in the upper flat.  The mat will get some algal growth after awhile but that doesn’t seem to matter.  Below is a pic of a flat I recently built.


Robin said...

Tending to a greenhouse can be quite tricky and really requires that you pay attention to the temps. It's difficult to do if you aren't home all day. I have to say that I have killed plants from heat and cold in the greenhouse.

I usually use capillary mats when I germinate. For some reason I didn't use them this year. They do make bottom watering much easier.

I just hate squirrels, I really think that they watch you plant and then just go destroy things for the fun of it! I trapped about 20 squirrels last year here at the house. If I lived in the country they may have gotten lead poisoning!!

kitsapFG said...

My spinach is dawdling something fierce this year. Normally it grows fast once the day length starts increasing but this year the plants seem to be stalled out. I have only had a little bit of spinach to harvest and usually I am swimming in it at this time of year. So enjoy that spinach harvest!

I am growing Gonzales cabbage this year. Glad to hear it is one you like so well. I have a few standby varieties I like too but thought I would grow some of those for their smaller heads - more efficient space utilization in the garden.

Daphne Gould said...

Nice. My spring seeded spinach is just popping up now. I can't wait for it to grow big enough to eat.

thyme2garden said...

I really like those homemade cages. We had a big problem with wild rabbits last year. I don't think we had squirrels, but ugh, I don't even want to think about them. I'm glad to have found another Indiana veggie gardner's blog!

Ottawa Gardener said...

I like your brassica cycle and applaud the don't tempt them attitude with critters. Exclusion is my primary means of critter protection. Your plants are looking very lush.

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