Kale for Days

 

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I just found this post in my draft folder. I was so sure that I had hit publish on it, but I guess not. This was my intro to the Kale I grew last year. I didn’t manage to get any growing photos of it last year (because 2016 was a giant steamy pile of… fresh compost), BUT I plan on trying them all again this year.

I love Kale. I think most of the world does now too. And the good thing, if you are also a Kale lover… Its ridiculously easy to grow. I was originally just going to group the Kale in with the other Brassicas that I am growing this year, but then I decided to dedicate a whole post just to the Kale

Rule of thumb – cover any kind of Brassica (which Kale is) to protect it from becoming a white cabbage butterfly (or moth…whatever it is) nursery. You can try and spray the eggs off with a jet of water from the hose… and then pick any caterpillars off the leaves later on if you want; But I find the easiest way to protect my brassicas is by covering them with a screen material. The one exception to this, is the Curly Kale. It doesn’t seem to attract the little buggers like pretty much any other brassica does. But be ready to cover it if you start to see the pretty little butterfly floating around them.

I’ve grown the Curly kale over-sown in a container just outside the kitchen door for baby leaves for a few years, and I definitely recommend trying that if you have no where else to grow it. So easy! You can let some of the plants grow on into full sized Kale plants too, so you can get the best of both worlds.

I’m growing 5 different varieties this year! My best friend brought me some different varieties back with her from a trip to Ontario. White Russian and the Rainbow Kale are the new additions here. They are from a seed company called “Urban Harvest” and I’m looking forward to trying all the seeds she brought me.

  • White Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex cells)
    • “This beautiful variety has green, wavy leaves with white stems and veining. Thought to be one of the vest tasting kales. Very tender and hardy. Use baby leaves in salad and mature leaves for stir fry or steaming.” Urban Harvest Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: Not mentioned on seed pack
  •  Rainbow Dinosaur Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “This European Kale has been developed by Frank Morton. A cross of Lacinato (Dinosaur) & Redbor hybrid kale. He selected this diverse population that includes the leaf qualities that Lacinato is loves for, overlain with hues of red, purple, and blue-green. More vigorous and cold hardy than Lacinato. Not bitter and very tender.” Urban Harvest Seeds 
    • Days to Maturity: 62
  • Dinosaur (Lacinato) Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “Handsome heirloom known for its blue-green crinkled leaves, tender texture & sweet flavor. Delicious in salads, for sauteed greens, soups or braised with garlic & olive oil. Kale’s flavor is vest in cool weather; mature plants handle frost well or extended harvesting” Cornucopia Seeds
  • Red Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Dark gray-green leaves provide more vitamins and minerals than other greens. Red and purple hues intensify after fall frost providing tender and sweet rich dark green kale when cooked. Tasty steamed, stir fried or in salads.” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60
  • Dwarf Green Curled Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Decorative green curled leaves. May be boiled as greens or chopped fresh for salads when young. Kale is the oldest form of cabbage, being superior to most vegetables in protein, vitamin and mineral content. Cool weather crop that likes rich well drained, moisture retaining soil. Tastiest after a light frost. Slow to bolt” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60-75

 

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So, for this year (2017), I think I will try the exact same Kale situation as I wrote about above. Which is why I left the dates I sowed them (for my own notes). As always, plans could change. At the very least, I will sow the curly, rainbow and the dinosaur Kale. At this point in my garden plan for this year, Kale will be the only Brassica I am going to grow, with the possibility of Broccoli if I can find some room for it.

If you have any Kale or other Brassica tips, share them in the comments below. Do you have a (preferably organic) way of keeping away the white butterflies? I would love to keep the netting out of my garden that doubles as our backyard landscapes, but I also know that I cannot keep up with hand-picking the eggs or little caterpillars off the plants.

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2016 Tomato Harvest

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This photo is all the tomatoes that I was able to harvest in 2016… with the exception of a few Tiny Tim’s that I ate straight off the plant.

There is a singular Black Cherry there. And I got one or two Yellow Pears. The rest in the photo are all Sub Arctic Plenty.

I sound like a broken record… but the damn squirrels stole all the rest.

If you remember, I had planned to grow a ton of the heirloom varieties I have seed for, to replenish my seed stash. I sowed 17 varieties, with at least 1 plant of each kind. For some varieties, I sowed up to 4. with at least 1 for me, the rest to share with friends. So to only get tomatoes from 4 of those I planted and tended was so disheartening.

Here is the list of tomatoes I grew last year:

  • Orange Wellington
  • Black Russian
  • Black Cherry
  • Beefsteak
  • Pink Brandywine
  • Rutgers
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Yellow Pear
  • Boxcar Willie
  • Golden Cherry
  • Chadwick’s Cherry
  • Principe Borghese
  • Sub-Arctic Plenty
  • Tumbler
  • Tiny Tim
  • Manitoba
  • Green Envy

Even though the squirrels were the main problem, I am also chalking the poor season up to to the weird weather, and the fact that 2016 was the worst year of my life thus far. I also didn’t bother saving any seed.

Thoughts for 2017: I have yet to decide on the varieties for this year. I’m trying to keep my seeds out of sight so I don’t start too many, and too early. I think the tomatoes this year in the yard are going to look far different than in previous years. “Tomato Island” doesn’t quite work. There isn’t as much sun there as in other areas of the yard. And since we finally have the patio started (and will hopefully finish in early spring), I can dot the tomato containers around in the warmer areas on the patio. Other people have had some success spraying with aspirin, so I may try that. It causes a reaction in the tomato that makes it think it is being attacked, so the plant becomes stronger thinking that it was attacked, when it is really fine. However, in my plan to simplify things, I may just cut down on the amount of tomatoes and just provide them with what they need rather than getting in over my head with all the extra things that don’t NEED to happen. Time will only tell what ends up happening in the garden this year

Do you have any suggestions on what tomatoes to try?

 

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Update on the Herbs (2016)

I figured it was time for an Herb Update. I’m doing way better with keeping these alive this year too! Here is the big Herb Post where I sowed most of these. I have potted everything up, and sowed some Dill as well.

Spearmint in the back, Lemon Balm in the front

  • Lemon Balm
    • sown: January 23
    • potted up: March 5 (3″ pot)
  • Spearmint
    • sown: January 23
    • potted up: March 5 (3″ pot)
  • Lavender
    • sown: January 23
    • potted up: March 5 (Recycled 6 cell that flowers from the garden center come in)
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  • Thyme
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • Summer Savory
    • sown: March 11
    •  potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • Sweet Marjoram
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • Russian Tarragon
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • Oregano
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • Catnip
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 7 (Party Cups)
    •  
  • Flat Leaf Parsley
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • ‘Champion Moss Curled’ Parsley
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • Chamomile
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (3″ pots)
    •  
  • Rosemary
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (3″ pot)
  • ‘Red Rubin’ Basil
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9
  • ‘Genovese o Comune’ Basil
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • ‘Lemon’ Basil
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • ‘Lime’ Basil
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • ‘Cinnamon’ Basil
    • sown: March 11
    • potted up: April 9 (Party Cups)
  • Sage
    • sown: March 11
    • These won’t get potted up until they go out into their final pot, as they were sown in larger cells that flowers from the garden center come in.
  • Garlic Chives
    • sown: March 11
    • Just like the Sage, these won’t get potted up until I put them outside in their final pot.
  • Stevia
    • sown: March 14
    • Not potted up yet, I’m just happy that I have ONE that has survived out of the 3 that germinated. Scratch that, I’m just happy that my future Mother-in-Law sent me the seeds so I could get this far. I STILL haven’t found any seeds around here.
  • Dill
    • sown: April 9 (Party Cup)
    • Typically, it is recommended to direct sow Dill, but I figured I would  try and get a little jump on the season. I usually miss out on my Dill because I plant it too late, or I forget to take into account the growth of plants around where I sow it, and it gets shaded out before It really gets established. So maybe, just maybe this will help my Dill situation. Worst case, they don’t like getting transplanted, and I have to direct sow. Best case, I end up with loads of Dill

 

Sorry for the lack of photos on some of the herbs; they turned out blurry. Their pictures in the next update will be better (I hope). I hope your herbs are growing well! Spring is on her way here, I even saw a Robin today.

Carrots (2016)

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We are still a bit away from sowing carrots around here, but I figured I would jump the gun and write a slightly more informative post about them (rather than just mentioning what varieties I am sowing).

In my backyard, I haven’t had amazing luck with carrots. They just don’t grow well for me here. My soil is likely too rich for them, and not loose enough.This leads to forked and ‘hairy’ carrots or tiny roots and really lush foliage. Since carrots are one of my very favourite vegetables, I need to work on being able to grow them better here. There is nothing better than a freshly pulled carrot. They taste amazing, and will ruin any future grocery store carrot purchases for you. The store bought ones will NEVER taste as good as a carrot from your own garden. Even the small, forked or hairy ones you pull yourself will taste better than the mass produced, mechanically harvested ones you buy in a bag.

Carrots are biennials. This means the first year they grow and store up energy in their root. The second year they will flower. So if you intend to save your own carrot seed, you will have to wait 2 years to do so. Carrots are closely related to Queen Anne’s Lace and produce big umbel flowers.

Click this link to the Carrot Museum to learn more about the history behind our modern carrots.

Terrible little drawing I did, illustrating the different types of carrots.


The best thing to do when selecting which carrots to grow is to learn about the different kinds so you can pick one (or more) to suit your growing conditions. Or just pick whichever ones call out to you and see what grows best.

Imperator– These are the long carrots that you typically see at the grocery store. These do best in a loose, deep soil because they are so long (typically about 10 inches).

  • Growing in 2016- ‘Purple Haze F1’ and ‘Tendersweet Long Hybrid’

Nantes – These are basically cylindrical coming to a rounded tip. These were bred for sweetness and are a very popular choice with home gardeners.

  • Growing in 2016- ‘Nantes Touchon’ and ‘Little Finger’

Danvers(Usually) Shorter than Imperator types, these will work in a heavier soil because of that. They are a conical shape with rounded shoulders that taper to a point, and are resistant to cracking and splitting. These arose in Danvers, Massachusetts in 1871.

Chantenay – Best for heavy or shallow soil. These are shaped like ice cream cones. Wide, broad shoulders taper quickly to a blunt tip.

  • Growing in 2016 – ‘Red Cored Chantenay’  (This pack of seeds is a bit older, so they may not have great germination, but I’m going to try them and see what happens.)

There are also some more “Speciality” types that don’t fall into the above classifications.

  • Growing in 2016 – ‘Atlas’ (little round carrots. I love these!)

The main pests for Carrots are the Carrot Rust Fly and Wireworms, and any animals that think they will make a great dinner.

Carrots grow well with most other vegetables, but avoid planting them with dill, potatoes and parsnips. Carrots planted with tomatoes will apparently be sweeter, but stunted in growth.

‘Atlas’ carrots I grew in 2014

Carrot Pictures from 2013 (The last year I grew amazing carrots):

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Tomatoes 2016-Part 1

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Some of the very first tomatoes I grew in our yard here. 2011 or 2012

Part 1 of the Tomato Saga began on March 15. It took a lot of willpower to make it to this point. And I only let myself sow the longer season tomatoes.

I started by making 3 piles of my tomato seeds. Pile one was “Yes! Growing For-Sure!” Pile 2 was “Maybe/Replenish seed if space allows” and Pile 3 was “Not this year”

I would share what varieties ended up in each pile, but it is honestly a never ending battle to not grow EVERY kind. So I’ll just keep you up to date on which varieties I have started AND how their germination is (because some of the seeds are getting older).

2 years ago, I found an ad on Kijiji that was selling (or trading) heirloom seeds, and so I asked if he would be interested in trading. I had lots of Red and Pink Brandywine seeds, and a few other heirloom varieties, to trade with. In return, I received: Black Russian, Orange Wellington, Boxcar Willie and Golden Cherry. He also threw in a surprise of Purple Nodding Onion. This year, I am going to try and grow them again, so I can keep up my seed stash. Hopefully the germination on them is still good so I can replenish them.

So, on March 15, I started (in peat pellets):

  • 1x Orange Wellington
  • 1x Black Russian
  • 2x Black Cherry
  • 2x Beefsteak
  • 2x Pink Brandywine
  • 2x Rutgers
  • 2x Cherokee Purple

Here they are starting to sprout – March 20 (5 days)


The Black Cherry, Beefsteak and Rutgers are all new-to me varieties. I’m really excited to test them out. Cherokee Purple is one of my very favourites, so of course I have to grow it again.Orange Wellington, Black Russian and Pink Brandywine are all around for replenishment… and because they were delicious.

Next up will be the slightly shorter season tomatoes. Stay tuned.

Some of the heirloom tomatoes I grew in 2014.  I wish I had saved seed of the Yellow one in the photo, it was delicious, and it came from a mixed pack of seeds.