Gardening Update

This spring weather has been pretty beneficial for gardening - except for 4 inches of rain all at once last Sunday (poor Nashville). I harvested the last of my spinach this week... a cool weather crop, as I wrote previously. It starts to "bolt" - send up flower heads - when it senses several triggers: overcrowding, heat, daylight for 16 hours, less moisture. We've loved eating it raw and cooked, and I had enough to freeze too. I am continuously picking romaine, black-seeded simpson and mesclun lettuce these days too, as well as the scallions from my large planting of onions. I've rooted some sweet potato vines from last years' harvest, both in a jar of water and in loose soil in the cold frame; only two of the five varieties I planted from 2009 have grown: Beauregard (the supermarket favorite) and Hernandez. I'll pull the little slips off the main plant and put them in their permanent garden location early next week. Also, there are flowers on my heirloom "lemon" cucumber plants, as well as on the zucchini.  Late next week, when evening temps should start to stay above 55 degrees, I'll set out the butternut squash, eggplant, and cantaloupe plants I started indoors from seed, as well as various bush beans, sown directly in the garden. I pushed the season on my four varieties of peppers (sweet, pimento, poblano, and jalapeno) and they are growing well now that the weather is warm.

Also now harvesting an oriental veggie called "pak choi" which is like a mini bok choy. I struggle with growing any cabbage family crops organically, since they attract an insect which eats holes in the leaves. Garlic spray and diatomaceous earth slow down the damage, but don't eliminate it. If anyone has a suggestion, please let me know. Still, I prefer a few holes in the leaves to toxic pesticide use. Perhaps the pak choi will be a better fall crop, when there are fewer bugs.

I took the "kozy coats" off the tomato plants, since our temperatures are into the 80s under full sun this week. I had one plant in the ground without a kozy coat. It is very healthy and growing well, but it is only 1/2 the height of those with the kozy coat, so I guess this is a worthwhile tool. I've kept the coats on the eggplant and jalapeno which I've already planted, since they love heat.

My garlic, planted last fall as individual bulbs, are so large that the stalks look like dwarf cornstalks! A few started to send up a flower head, so I pinched them off at the bottom of the stem. I broke the stems into 3" pieces and scattered them around the young cucumber and zucchini plants to ward off pests.

I picked about a pint of strawberries for the last two days, from my everbearing and June-bearing plants. Not only do they taste wonderful, but they even smell great... unlike the tasteless ones from the supermarket.

Last note on harvesting: Few people notice the Red Bud tree once its magnificent show of blossoms is over, shown at its height in the photo above. Those beautiful flowers of  early spring here have now turned into 3" long green edible pods! I've tried eating them - not as tasty as pea pods, but certainly a good source of emergency food. Picked young, like they are now, they cook up very tender and crunchy in a stir fry. And they are enormously plentiful, if you can reach the branches! You can see the heart shape of the leaves in the photo of the pods, to help you identify it properly.

Enjoy the bounty of springtime.