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More Gardening Weird Science: Saving and growing your own

A very very long time ago, when Aunt Toby was Little Toby (and my mom used to use me as an example in her college parenting classes), our family had a dentist friend who was an absolutely amazing gardener. Not with veggies, mind you – his entire garden was devoted to his work with roses and when he retired and moved to sunnier and warmer climes, he went around offering rose bushes to his friends before he sold the house. My parents were the lucky recipients of four rugosa roses which grew to amazing Rapunzel heights on the south side of their house, in a mixture of cement, clay, and goodness only knows what (My Mama was NOT a good gardener; any plant sunk into a hole in her garden was on its own). What would have happened to those roses if they’d been given the least encouragement with real soil or some compost is truly frightening to contemplate (can we all say “Little Shop of Horrors”? Knew you could). (more…)

Throw a little science into the garden mix

OK, so Aunt Toby just knows that you’ve got this gargantuan pile of seed catalogs next to the chair or on your night stand and the color photos are just amazing. And your list is growing longer and longer and you are just going crazy with the thoughts of the snow off the ground and the plants IN the ground and what the tomatoes are going to taste like this summer and hey, maybe you’ll make salsa!

Slow down, Bucko. Let’s throw a little science on this, ok? (more…)

Something to remember when you think about next year’s garden

Aunt Toby wants you to expand your mind. Once, like many people, I was the sort of person who basically gave up on the garden when ‘The Big Freeze’ showed up and mowed down the tomatoes and other less-than-hardy stuff. Then I discovered that there are veggies, mostly from the cabbage family, which can hold quite nicely after everything else is gone. Even here at Chez Siberia, there are things that are still useful and edible out in the garden, so it’s worth growing them strictly from the aspect of having fresh green veggies when otherwise, you’d be having to buy them in the grocery store.

This year, I left two that I knew would work in the snow, kale and Brussels sprouts, and two experiments, chard and fennel. The experiments were a colossal failure: The fennel froze out completely and the chard rotted where the stems of the plant met the ground. Done.

But the kale and the sprouts are fine. The kale looks pretty ragged, I admit, but it’s still harvestable, cookable and edible. The sprouts look great; they were protected by the plants’ leaves, so they are looking fresh and green. Yum.

So, while you still have time to make out your seed order for 2011, consider trying out kale and sprouts for your garden this next spring. They are hardy (I put my seed into the ground late in March or early April under glass – you can use clean plastic over hoops too, if you have them; old windows over surplus timbers or cement blocks of you don’t) and actually very tasty. Something new to most families, for sure, but a definite way to extend the season for your garden.

Seed Catalogs: Still Worth Reading!

I hope everyone had a good weekend; if you celebrate US Thanksgiving, by now you have probably exhausted the left over turkey and are emerging from the tryptophan stupor. All I can say is – look upon this coming week as an opportunity for you to eat a LOT of fiber and try to get your digestive system in some sort of equilibrium before the onslaught of pre-Christmas entertaining.

To the topic at hand: seed catalogs. (more…)

Kale, Kale, The Gang’s All Here

I feel that as a public service, I have to tell you something: Sometimes, you just have to do things because they are good for you. You may learn to like them later.

That is the way it is with kale. Just eat it. Find a way to eat it that works for you, but eat it. The nutritional benefits of this vegetable are just so huge; if you can’t bring yourself to eat any other green veggie or leafy green, eat kale. (no, I am not on the payroll of the American Kale Conference or the National Kale Board or whatever lobbying group they have; as a matter of fact, that might be part of the problem. I don’t think anyone is actually doing PR for the vegetable)

OK. Housekeeping. What IS kale?
Kale is a member of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group) and because it’s leaves do not form a head, it is considered to be closer to the ancestors of cabbage than any other member of the family.
In its current state of development (you can get flat and curly leafed varieties), this is a vegetable which has been around for thousands of years and is documented as being eaten by Romans in the 4th Century B.C.

Advantages of Kale
If you are a gardener in the northern part of the US, kale is something that you can start early, eat all summer, keep into the fall and even eat after it’s gotten a hard frost. As a matter of fact, the sugars in the plant actually are accentuated by frost, so this is an advantage in terms of having a fresh veggie out of the garden after everything else has seemingly been killed off. . . .

Kale freezes well. Kale will keep under the snow. I have dug up kale for dinners in January out of the snow. It is firm, green, crunchy and juicy. During the winter, when getting fresh veggies (except for those being trucked in from places like Florida, California and Texas) can be iffy, having kale out in the ‘deep freeze’ is definitely worth it. (more…)

Not over ’til it’s over: Fall Garden

So, we’re halfway through October here at Chez Siberia. We’ve had a solid week of nightly frosts in the low 20s. Real ‘scrape off the windows on your car’ mornings. So, for a lot of people here, gardening season is officially ‘over’. If they’ve been efficient, they’ve ripped everything out, thrown it on the compost (except if they had blight on the tomatoes, in which case, they burned all the old plants and then disposed of the ashes), have been raking up the leaves to turn into compost or leaf mold. Game over. (more…)

Next Year’s Garden – Today! Onions

I know for many people, growing things in the garden is strictly done on the ‘what costs me a lot in the store’ aspect or ‘specialty things that I can’t get locally’ aspect. So, there are a lot of people who will grow 6 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, but who won’t grow potatoes or onions because, after all, “I can buy a 50 pound bag at the store for $xx – it takes too much room to grow enough.” Or, “I don’t have room to store” or some other reason.

And Aunt Toby is here today to tell you this: It’s worth it. (more…)

Overwhelmed with tomatoes?

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Garlic Update

As you might recall, Aunt Toby found some lonely little lost forgotten garlic plants last year and scrubbed out a little area and planted them.Second chances And promptly forgot them until they came back up in the spring. One of the wonderful thing about garlic is that they really are like potatoes, since you can’t see exactly what is going on; you have to just keep them weeded and watered and hope that you get something good when they are ready to dig up. (more…)

Royal Burgundy – Beans, that is

We’re pretty loosey-goosey here at KCE; Aunt Toby doesn’t tend to promote or recommend products. A lot of that has to do with the fact that what works here at Chez Siberia just might not work for readers where in particular you are. But I’m making a special case here with Royal Burgundy Beans. For those of you in the UK, I know Thompson and Morgan has a type called “Purple Teepee”. (more…)

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