Saturday, April 23, 2011

Long Time Coming

If you have read prior postings, you are aware of my attempts to grow artichokes and leeks. This is an up-date on the progress.

If I could offer any advise on vegetable gardening to a beginner, it would be this:

1. Plant only what you will eat.
2. Plant enough of those to share.
3. If it costs more to grow than buy, reconsider.
4. Take a few chances.

1. Why on earth would you take the space and time to grow broccoli if you don't eat it? It is interesting to watch, I'll give you that, but you're going to be out there, watering, fertilizing, weeding & stalking insects. Your time is valuable. Waste it wisely.

2. This is twofold. Part A: Hedging the bet. Now, I am growing 90% of our plants from seeds. I have a window opportunity to get the seedlings in the ground at the most opportune time for growth and production. I also have losses to consider. So, I planted 6 minipots of each variety of veg. I always sowed more than 1 seed and in many cases, when it came time to transplant into larger pots, was able to divide and save the multiples. Even the rare 3fer.

(This is not always the case. For example, with carrots I sow directly in the beds thinly and pull and discard the crowders. I have tried transplanting them and it really does not work for me. Those carrots always grow out deformed and forked. Beets..... sort of the same. I can get them to transplant but they don't seem hardy. The leaves are good in salad however, so it something worthwhile.)

Now as they grow, I will have plenty to get in the ground at that opportune time and enough left over to fill in when something unexpected happens to those plants. We lost 3 tomatoes this year in rapid order to cutworms. I didn't see that coming but had extra plants to pop in. They may not be of the same variety and that's a shame. In some of these instances, I had already given the young plants to friends for their gardens.

Which brings me to Part B: Sharing. Always plant a little more than you need, because it is a blessing to be able to share what you grow with your friends and neighbors and yes, strangers. Sharing is very important.

3. It seems self-explanatory but even I will succumb to growing things like onions. Now onions take a looonggggg time to grow and are relatively cheap to buy, so why am I wasting that time and space? I wanted to see what it takes to grow an onion and I have to confess; mine ain't worth it. I can buy a better yellow onion than I can grow. Same goes for the purple ones and garlic BUT

I grow shallots well and can sub-divide them continually so that makes it worth-while.
The leeks are another story I have been detailing over the months and now we are eating the rewards of the painstaking process. Leeks are also expensive and (once you know how) relatively easy to grow. They require water and vigilance in our raised beds and are superb.

Also they are divine. I love leeks.

I love green things that grow and I love garden surprises. Not surprises with legs that chew holes in the leaves.... I don't care for those surprises. I kill those surprises....

NO no no, these surprises.....

That thing on the right is fennel and I planted a store-bought pot last year. It did alright and I harvested the seeds for limpa at Christmas. I was surprised to see it winter over and grow out new smaller plants! I have never bought fennel or eaten it to my knowledge, but here I had something I wasn't expecting. An opportunity to learn something new!

So I cut two bulbs away last week and braised them. The flavor was terrific but the bulb was very woody so I learned, surprise!!!! eat the smaller ones. Leave the big one for seeds. (you learn, right?)

The things on the left are shallots, French shallots and they, too, are expensive but growing them in Louisiana is easy. So I do.

4. Take a chance now and then. The rewards are worth the heart-ache. If someone says to me, "Oh that won't grow here", my reaction is usually, "Really? Why?" and then I want to try.

We tried asparagus and have been very pleased with the results. The artichoke has been a Long Time Coming and we ate our first one Thursday night,

along with a green salad

and venison sausage. We truly are in high-cotton.

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