Plant leafy greens now; and save some for seeds

Plant leafy greens now; and save some for seeds

Leafy greens grow best in cooler, moister conditions. Sometimes we are lucky about this time of year. We have lots of varieties to choose from so now is a time for quick-maturing ones and heat-resistant varieties too. Those planted now will mature in warmer weather to keep an eye on them.

Watch out for a short hot spell which sends them to seed. Get ready to harvest leaves [they keep in the fridge for some days].

If it gets warm, well, that’s great for other crops so when we lose the lettuces we gain great tomatoes, pumpkins and zucchinis etc. So, for me, its all in how I look at the situation. We also grow mizuna, magenta spreen and other greens to fill the gaps.

When the leafy greens do bolt to flower and seed, that’s a great time to save yourself some well-adapted seeds which can regrow next season.

Plants which have grown well, producing abundant leaves over a long time – your best performers – are prime ones to save seeds from. Choose which now.

 

Choose the best performers and give them a  stake for support. As well as supporting the tall growth, the stake helps us remember to keep that plant for seed [and tells enthusiastic helpers to leave it alone!]

 

Could little lettuces, parsley, endive or silver-beet plants really need a stake?

They shoot up and up and up – as tall as me. And then blow over in strong winds; onto any other plants nearby. Not so good. Strong stakes support them and give an attachment point to confine their expansive spreading ways!

 

20141225_171548
Red-stemmed silver-beet and parsley flowering and seeding – 1.5 m tall and still going up!

 

How do we choose which plants to allow to seed and which not?

Here are the factors we use for saving leafy greens seeds:

PS

If we left the first plants to shoot up and seed, we are selecting for a shorter season of the leaves we like – hmmm.

 

Each garden is a unique little environment of its own – no two are the same.

We can take useful guidance from other gardens, yet the only way to find what works for us is by trying it in our own garden.

This also means that plants which grow wonderfully in our garden are adapted to our garden. They won’t necessarily do well in other gardens with different soil type, winds, rainfall, aspect [there’s a huge difference between north-facing and south-facing slopes]

Saving your own high-quality seed gives you a huge advantage next season in the garden which grew the seed!

 

Consider the whole life-cycle when you are choosing which plants to let flower and seed. There’s more about what to look for in this post.

Saving seeds is a wonderful adventure where we can experiment – and you never know when you will get wonderful types just right for you and your garden.

 

For a note about cross-pollination, see this important information

Pollen of one variety can cross-pollinate other similar types so it’s well worth finding which you need to be careful with.

Have a great time saving your very own seeds. For more about saving leafy green seed, here’s the post again.

 

Now, other useful info for planting seeds to produce great crops:

Best phase of the moon for lush leafy greens is the week after the new moon on Friday 20th October 2017.

Best days are

  • Saturday October 21st,
  • Sunday 22nd, then again
  • Wednesday pm 25th October through until Friday 27th October 2017.

 

May you and your garden flourish!

 

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Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

It’s good this is a week to rest from sowing seeds – I could do with a catch-up time!

Especially as

NIWA’s recent report for October 2017 shows we are moving into more settled weather – hooray!

The winds up to now shredded new, tender leaves which had emerged. New ones starting now have a much better opportunity to grow.

The prediction is for warmer than usual and the northern areas to have north-east winds more frequently. These often bring warm, moist air so we may have more rain too.

Sounds really good for getting the garden to grow wonderfully!

So now is a great time to get ready to plant in a couple of weeks time:

  • Sort compost – everything grows better when well-fed
  • prepare garden beds
  • read up on this season and seed types to plant for success – they all have their favorite times. Which are your favorites to sow now?
  • learn more about the optimum conditions to grow GREAT crops of your favorite veg or fruit so you know what to do over their growing season.
  • Plan your next seed sowing, your garden layout, or crop rotation to minimize pest and diseases.

From 13th October 2017 until after the dark of the moon on Friday 20th October 2017 and then it’s time for seed sowing again.

As the moon nears its smallest visible ‘dark of the moon’ phase, it is best to take a week off from planting or sowing seeds at this time as it is associated with spindly, weak growth.

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, check out this post for more on planting by the moon phases to see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

An interesting experiment, is to plant the same seeds in rows right beside each other [so all other conditions are identical], and label the rows with the date of planting. Then sow seeds from 1 packet at weekly intervals, each week in a new row.

This way you can see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

I enjoy experimenting with such ideas – and if only I can rescue the rows from the snails and black-birds, I might even get some results to share!

At the minimum, these moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

Enjoying our gardens is the main idea for me, and I hope you too can wander around your garden and enjoy whatever it offers now.

It’s time to sow seeds of leafy greens this week

It’s time to sow seeds of leafy greens this week

Sow seeds for luscious, tender leafy greens this next week – and best days are Thursday 21st September 2017 to Monday  25th [here in New Zealand]

 

 

In Auckland the weather has been alternated between winter chills and winds off the Antarctic through to warm and wet weather out of the tropics.  Welcome to Spring!

Let’s hope for good germination!  I will sow seeds throughout the week of

  • Lettuce – I left many varieties to seed so hopefully some will do well no matter what the weather does this year – hot/dry/cold/wet.
  • Silver-beet [including rainbow chard/ bright light beets – the ones with vibrant colored stems – so stunning to see in a garden] we left to seed in the garden and they are sprouting up now
  • Rocket [Arugula] is tasty rather than bitter at this time. We plant 2 types – the large leaf annual and the stronger, smaller-leaf perennial rocket
  • Mustard greens, or the giant red mustard is pretty nice early in the season before the heat of summer adds too much pepper bite.
  • Asian greens [assorted] – here they grow well in the cooler months – they grow so fast! We have Mizuna self-seeding. We grow 2 types – an ordinary green one as well as the deep red one – stunning in the garden [for a short time]
  • Endive  We grow 2 types – a broader leaf variety and a lovely fine, frilly variety. They are lovely and tender in cooler months so we enjoy them now. Both grow more slowly than lettuce.

This is a great time to have leafy greens grow well – they love cooler, wetter times.

 

Later, when the weather warms up they bolt to seed fast and produce fewer leaves which easily go bitter.

Enjoy delightful salads with a range of leaf types in these Spring months.

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week – do other garden stuff instead

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week – do other garden stuff instead

From Tuesday 12th September 2017 until after the dark of the moon on Wednesday 20th September 2017.

As the moon nears its smallest visible ‘dark of the moon’ phase, it is best to take a week off from planting or sowing seeds as this time gives least strong outcomes.

This week is a time for other things – prepare more garden beds for the big Spring planting, or go through those seed supplies from past years and get them ready for sowing over the next weeks. Or get clear on what you will plant this season, and where.

Seeds have limited life and are far more likely to give strong, healthy plants when the seed is fresh.

 

Like to experiment with moon-planting?

If you like experiments, a great one is to plant the same seeds in rows right beside each other [so all other conditions are identical], and label the rows with the date of planting. Then sow seeds from 1 packet at weekly intervals, each week in a new row.

This way you can see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

Planting by the moon gives this week as poor for germination and health of seedlings. Do you find good germination and strongly growing seedlings emerge – or not? An interesting experiment.

I enjoy experimenting with such ideas –  if only I can rescue the rows from the snails and black-birds!

 

At the minimum, these guides remind me to plan a little to plant SOMETHING!

Enjoying our gardens is the main idea for me, and I hope you too can wander around your garden and enjoy whatever it offers now.

 

Beans, beans and more beans!

Beans, beans and more beans!

Our tricks to having [nice] beans over a l-o-n-g season.

By the end of winter we look forward to veggies we have not had for some months – tomatoes, zucchinis etc – and fresh beans! For us, beans are the first available of the summer crops while we wait [impatiently] for the rest.

Our bean supplying strategy has evolved over the years and starts with sowing a number of varieties in spring.

First to go in are dwarf beans ‘Prince’ into a bed with compost and covered with a plastic tunnel to warm it up; in a protected, sunny spot. These will crop first. They taste OK [if not terrific] and grow well in cooler conditions when most other beans struggle, so these ‘Prince’ beans are useful to fill that gap.

Maybe it’s time to put the first lot in now as we seem to have a warm, early Spring this year.

 

Then, next to go in when the ground is warm [maybe 3-4 weeks later, in October?], are our other favorite dwarf beans. 2 varieties:

‘Purple Tee Pee’. These taste nice and its easy to find the beans as they are different colors to the leaves and stems – neat. They crop prolifically and quite quickly.

Purple tee pee and butter bean

Also, in go dwarf butter beans which gives a crop of delicious yellow beans – when I look after them! The yellow beans are easy to find too, which I appreciate.  [No idea of the variety as I replant year after year and who knows which it was originally!]

 

At the same time I plant climbing ‘Emu’ beans on a trellis behind the dwarf beans. These are a staple for us. They take longer to start to crop than the dwarf beans so are flowering and ‘beaning’ prolifically as the dwarf beans finish – great timing.

 

Emu beans

  • taste good,
  • are string-less,
  • have a prolific crop [if looked after],
  • and – even better – they continue to flower and ‘bean’ even when the older beans are drying on the vine – a great benefit as I seem to miss so many until they are too big to be nice to eat. With other beans I find the crop of edible beans decreases the more old beans I miss on the vine. Then the vine dies. Emu beans keep on keeping on producing new tiny beans too.

 

We have 2 varieties of runner beans which are perennial so they re-grow from the roots each year when the ground warms up.

  • ‘Sunset runner’ has lovely pale orange flowers so its on the front fence.
  • ‘Painted Lady’ is a 2-toned red/white flower – also very pretty and where we can see it on the side fence.

We keep 1 plant of each even though we aren’t great runner bean fans for eating – they have lovely flowers. To us, there are sweeter, juicier, nicer options for eating.

Snake beans! ‘Red Noodle’ is a nice one with purple-ish beans so they are more visible than green ones. Taste fine too. They climb strongly and are of tropical origin so love hot weather when other beans are not so happy [when its too hot ordinary beans don’t set seed even if they flower]. Snake beans really come into their own then.

 

Snake beans - 'Red Noodle' 20170407
Snake beans – ‘Red Noodle’ 20170407

 

So, we start our bean harvest with

  • Prince‘ dwarf beans in spring.
  • Then the dwarf ‘Purple Tee Pee‘ and yellow butter beans are ready [so ‘Prince’ beans are left to form seed beans for next season].
  • Then the ‘Emu‘ beans are flourishing and give abundant crops [so the dwarf beans are left to produce seed beans for next season].
  • Then the Snake beans arrive and add diversity to our summer/autumn bean collection.
  • Runner beans are available for those occasions when other beans are in low supply.
  • Then we sow a late crop of ‘Prince‘ beans in March which [hopefully] feed us into winter [with a plastic tunnel cover added over them when the weather turned colder]

 

This sequence gives us nice beans from spring through until winter. Pretty good.

 

How we grow bean seedlings

First, I put the seeds into jars of water on the kitchen bench to swell up and sprout in the warmth of the kitchen. I rinse and empty off the water each day until I see tiny roots sprouting from the seeds. [I can also see if the seed is actually viable and will grow at all]

As soon as I see the seeds sprouting, I plant them into prepared garden beds [with compost and ‘Fodda’ nutrients added – just a little. Beans will make lots of leaves and few pods with too much rich ground].

We cover bean/pea plots with bird net or the blackbirds scratch the lot out searching for worms in the soil. If its really cold and windy we put plastic covers on before the bird netting [which holds the covers on even in high winds].

 

plastic covers over raised beds with bird netting over the top to hod all in place in strong winds
Plastic covers with bird netting over the top to hod all in place in strong winds

 

Corner posts, string or wire mesh make great trellises for climbing beans and peas.

Sometimes we surround a few seeds with cut-down plastic bottles as tiny protective hot-houses.

We put out snail bait [I use ‘Quash’ as it is iron based and doesn’t affect other soil life] as new legume seedlings are favorites of slugs and snails. A ‘night-patrol’ to collect any visible slugs and snails also helps reduce numbers. It’s amazing how many small seedlings disappear when 1 large snail wakes up from its winter sleep.

Then add labels [with dates] to help me remember what I planted where or I’m likely to put other things in the bed too, creating confusion and poor returns – it has happened over the years.

 

Harvesting tips

When crops are ‘beaning’ heaps, we pick beans every day or 2 so we collect them at their tenderest and tastiest – which are young ones. We pick beans when they are small – smaller than most people think are worth picking. Yet these are the ones which are most succulent, tender and tasty.

So when we grow our  own beans we can have the BEST quality rather than the crop which commercial growers get the best financial return on.

 

Anyway, I hope this has given some ideas for growing a l-o-n-g supply of beans from late spring through into winter. Pretty good when there is just a short time to wait for veg we like.

What are your favorites? How do you get a long bean season?

 

May you and your garden flourish!
Heather

Sow seeds of leafy greens this week

Sow seeds of leafy greens this week

Sow seeds for luscious, tender leafy greens this next week – Thursday pm 24th August 2017 to Monday  28th 2017 [here in New Zealand]

After the dark of the moon on Tuesday 22nd August 2017.

Spring is springing! A new energy of the cycle of growth is appearing for us down-under. Buds are form on deciduous plants and bursting into blossom or leaf. Joy oh joy.

The days are getting longer.

Yet the ground is still cold and wet, wet, wet here in Auckland. Seeds sown outside take a long time to sprout and grow.

To have a successful planting for a good harvest we need to give delicate, tender seedlings protection from:

  • the heaps of slugs and snails which miraculously appear now.  Keeping them away from delicious, tender new sprouting seedlings requires some effort.
  • strong cold winds
  • birds – especially black-birds which are nesting at present and determinedly scratch for worms scattering seeds and seedlings out of the soil in their efforts
  • any pets which can dig [or neighborhood cats]
  • possums and rats which can cause havoc if you have them around

 

What sort of  protection?

These are my favorites: Full plastic cover over hoops on raised beds.

plastic covers over raised beds with bird netting over the top to hod all in place in strong winds
plastic covers with bird netting over the top to hold all in place in strong winds
  • a protective surround. Cut down plastic bottles, one per seedling can work. I put a bird net over the lot as we have determined black-birds which up-root most such attempts.
  • a plastic bag cover over a frame with the plastic buried into the ground so there is no access [+ snail bait/deterrent for the determined ones].
  • a plastic tunnel cover [with covered ends too] +snail bait/deterrent
  • any other inventive physical barrier
Beans growing in winter under a plastic tunnel 20170529
A plastic tunnel – very useful at this time

This is a time when last year’s leafy greens suddenly bolt to seed, sending up tall spires of flowers. The leaves become bitter and less appealing.

 

What shall we sow?

  • Lettuce – I’ll sow a number of varieties under a plastic tunnel so hopefully some will do well no matter what the weather does this year – hot/dry/cold/wet.
  • Silver-beet [including rainbow chard/ bright light beets – the ones with vibrant colored stems – so stunning to see in a garden] In fact, they are popping up all over as I left last year’s seeding plants to share their seeds in the garden
  • Rocket [Arugula] 
  • Mustard greens, or the giant red mustard is pretty nice early in the season before the heat of summer adds too much pepper bite and it goes to seed rather than make tender leaves. It’s an eye-catcher in the garden.
  • Asian greens [assorted] – here they grow well in the cooler months – they grow so fast! Mizuna is a favorite for us.
  • Endive  We grow 2 types – a broader leaf variety and a lovely fine, frilly variety. They are lovely and tender in cooler months so we enjoy them now. Both grow more slowly than lettuce.

 

This is a great time to have leafy greens They love cooler, wetter times and can grow well.

 

Later, when the weather warms up they bolt to seed fast and produce fewer leaves which easily go bitter.

Enjoy delightful salads with a range of leaf types in these cooler, wetter months.

 

A week to grow below-ground crops

A week to grow below-ground crops

Here in Auckland, New Zealand, the outside ground is cold and germination will be slow, if at all, before seed is eaten by beasties. We wait until the soil warms up to sow seed outside. Or get inventive and creative to make warm spots.

If you have a hot-house, tunnel-house, or conservatory then these are good times to sow root crops:

  • Wednesday 9th August through to Friday 11th August 2017, then again on Monday 14th August 2017.

after the full moon on Tuesday 8th August 2017. [Here in New Zealand]

Some root crops can be transplanted, for example we’ve had success doing so with beetroot. Many others bolt straight to seed without forming nice big roots.

With carrots, we have only had success when sown directly into the open ground of warm soil. They will wait a while yet.