Monday, April 19, 2010

Big Big Mr. Beet

The Big Beet Experiement is nearly complete. Mr. Beet lasted all winter in the refrigerator and has been planted out in the garden. He was stored wrapped in two sheets of newspaper and stored in a plastic produce bag in the crisper. He emerged solid without evidence of rotting and even little baby sprouts shooting from the top. So, out to the garden he goes, planted so that the top is out of the soil, being careful to keep the roots straight, add a good bit of watering and wait to see what happens. The point of overwintering this beet and replanting him is to save seed.

This beet became a candidate for seed saving as a result of it's vigor in the garden, (it grew well and fast), and it's resistance to insect damage (when all the leaves on my other beets were ravaged, this one stood tall and undamaged!). Beets and other roots are biennial plants, in that they produce seeds the second year. So, Mr. Big Beet hopefully will flower and make seeds which I will collect to use in the future. The variety of this beet is called Detroit Dark Red, this beet variety is one on offer by Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA. Seed Savers Exchange promotes heirloom, open pollinated varieties in an effort to maintain the genetic heritage and diversity of our food crops. They also work with heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, turkeys, cattle and apple breeds. The work they do helps to combat the monopolization of our food system by companies who seek to patent genetic material and control the food chain from "birth" to plate. Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit and do tremendous work on behalf of anyone who eats! (

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring is Exploding!

It's time again, this year I think it's sneaking up faster than last year, at least here in Minnesota. I have tons of seedlings started, some more ready than others, all following their own path. The "green house" in the basement is serving well for the heirloom starts, everything from herbs to broccoli. No signs of damping off, and the germination mats are doing the trick.

After some welcome publicity, the client list expanded by 246% this season, holy buckets! There will be home gardens all over the land at this rate, which is the goal. Why is that the goal you ask? It's all about the food, it's just plain better if you grew it yourself! Heaping portions of pride and accomplishment, with dashes of dispair at times, the whole plate covered with a lovely gravy of nurturing.

What's the secret to keeping plants happy? The same thing as keeping relationships happy, pay attention! and when you can do something good, do it! How you care for your seedlings and plant starts now, has a direct effect on how they produce for you later. The classic plant start is the tomato, it seems everyone wants to grow tomatoes. Here are some rules of thumb...don't start them too early or they get leggy and weak, give them a bigger "home" if they grow out of the old one (don't assume that it will be okay until you plant it out-it's like wearing shoes that are too small, NO GOOD!). When you pot up the seedling, treat it carefully and give it lots of nice new dirt in which to play. Do let it get used to the sun and wind gradually by hardening off, meaning that the plants get ever slightly more exposure to the bright sun and wind over a period of 1-2 weeks. Don't get fooled by a nice warm spell, it could freeze again...wait until at least your average last frost date to plant it outside.

In the meantime, remember that certian things can be direct seeded now, even if it does freeze again. The list includes lettuce, spinach, radish, broccoli, cabbage, dill, beets and carrots. That certianly isn't a complete list but it will get you through the afternoon garden therapy session anyway!

Good Luck, See you in The Backyard!