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Garden update: early harvests

Well, here we are in the early stages of our garden here at Chez Siberia. We’re now long past the early ‘spindly’ stages of things; now the garden is really shaping up. We’ve got a couple of odd empty spots where certain seeds did not come up or the rabbits have chewed things down. We have fencing up now so that should not be so much of an issue (though part of it is that the plants themselves are old enough now that they don’t taste so yummy to the rabbits and they’ve moved on to other, younger things outside the fencing).

As you can see from the top photo (and this is only one of 7 beds in the garden), we’ve got quite a lot going on there. Going front to back (that is, closest to you in the photo and moving to the rear), we’ve got carrots, followed by some beets and kale with their lovely purple-ish stems. That’s followed by the Chinese cabbages. Beyond those, which you can’t see well, are more beets and other cabbage family plants. Things look pretty thick, don’t they?

And that’s the point of today’s post. There are certain vegetables that, no matter now much you try to thin them as you plant them, you will get seeds or little plants planted much too closely together for them to achieve their full destiny. Carrots are a great example of that. The seeds are horribly small so people have all sorts of strategies to try to thin them out – mixing sand into the packet and sewing them that way and so on. I have never had any luck with that and am resigned to just having to thin…and thin…and thin. I can see from this photo that I shall have to thin again to get them spaced more widely apart.

Now there is not much you can do with the thinnings of carrots until they are big enough that you can actually see carrots at the bottoms of them and cleaning them is a pain so I don’t bother; they go into the compost. But other things are much more useful. Beets, for example.

Once the seedlings are established (and you can transplant beet seedlings, by the way, so when you’ve done a first thinning, transplant them and space them at least 4″ apart and give them a good drink and they will take off again), the stems and leaves come up magnificently, as you can see from the photo here. And if you are thinking, “Gee, that looks a lot like chard,” then you win the blue ribbon today because beets and chard are from the same family. Chard puts all it’s work into making stems and leaves; beets makes lovely stems and leaves AND makes a root veggie which is lovely cooked in all sorts of ways. So, I’ve thinned out some spots in the bed where the beets are too close together and I’m going to steam these up and eat them. There are even a couple of super-baby beets there. Yum.

Moving back in the bed, we’ve got the Chinese cabbages. There are so many varieties of what is referred to as Chinese cabbages that it’s almost annoying to try to describe them; these are supposedly (according to the seed packet) a small version of what is referred to as ‘Napa’ cabbages, those rather football (or for out of US friends, rugby ball) shaped vegetable. It’s good in all sorts of recipes but my goal for all of these is to be turned into kimchi, the Korean fermented staple. As you can see from the photo; the plants are starting to get into the stage referred to as ‘heading up’, which is great news indeed.

The onions are doing beautifully, which I’m very happy to see. I tried something new to me (so you see, an old gardener can learn new tricks occasionally). I bought onion plants through the mail, a mix of yellow and red onions, all what are referred to as ‘keepers’. The plants arrived in a bundle in rubber bands, looking rather sad, I might add and a bit dry. The instructions said, ‘Don’t soak them”, so I didn’t, but I couldn’t plant them right away. The spring, as you recall was horribly wet and cold here. So, they sat in a slightly open plastic bag in our dark foyer waiting their turn. I have to say that they jumped out of the ground almost immediately and have been charging forward ever since. I will never plant dried up onion ‘sets’ from the local hardware store…ever again.

Tomatoes so far are moving nicely along; we don’t expect much to happen with tomatoes here until we have some warm nights. We had a couple of those about ten days ago, so we have some baby tomatoes going out there on the plum tomato plants, which is great to see. The earlier we get fruit ‘set’ on tomato and pepper plants, the better it is since our growing season tends toward the short end of the thing. The “Iron Lady” indeterminate plants that I put in have not done so well; I’m not sure why yet, but we’ll see if they perk up with warmer weather. The baby tomatoes, however are very heartening.

Elsewhere, the Bloody Butcher corn has taken off. I always keep an eye on what’s happening in the commercial farmers’ fields in our area and eyeball measure ours by what’s happening to theirs. I can safely report that ours is doing just as well as theirs and considering that we do absolutely nothing to it, it only goes to show that good corn can be grown with non-conventional (no herbicide/no pesticide) methods. The sunflowers are a bit ‘peely-wally’, as my Mum used to say, but that’s because they’ve been under row cover until very recently; they’ll be up and growing straight and strong before we know it. The peppers have flower buds on them, which is great news because again, the earlier we can get them to blossom, the sooner we will get fruit set and the longer they have to develop. We might even get some red ones!! And, all the cucumber/squash/melon plants (I really must start labeling these in the beds; once they are up, they really all look the same) are doing well, though the rabbits ‘put pay’ to some of them, as well as some of the bean plants. Since I now have some empty spots in the bed with the beans, I can take out the rest of the packet and plant some more. We will have enough time left in our growing season to get beans to eat from seeds I plant over the next couple of weeks.

Hope your gardens are all growing strongly – how is everyone else coping with the weather this year?

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