Tag Archives: chinese broccoli

Maximizing Space

Growing Vertically

We devote only a small part of our backyard for vegetable gardening and I’m always looking for a way to add more plants and increase productivity in the existing space.  Though we have put a deer fence up around our backyard, we still have to put a low fence around the vegetable garden.  If we don’t, there would be nothing left.  Deer cannot get in our back yard but rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels and chipmunks are still able to sneak in and enjoy what we grow.  So we are limited to growing vegetables within this little fenced in area, therefore I try to make every inch work to its maximum productivity.

Looking back at the last season, I note what worked and integrate it into the coming season along with whatever adaptation increases efficiency.  The method described below can be used for any plants that grow vertically, not just vegetables.

Aside from incorporating different plants in any one plot, I also grow vertically.  While most gardeners grow beans on a cone shaped ‘teepee’ I believe, I put up a trellis for beans that’s over the path, high enough to walk under, and grow beans on each side.  Last season, I put one up by the vegetable garden entrance.  It worked well and when the beans were fully grown and had developed pods, it looked beautiful and provided easy access for picking the beans too.  The trellis can be moved to any part of the garden easily when needed or I can grow different vegetables on it.

The bean trellis early last July. You can see the netted frame structure behind it.
Toward the end of July, beans have grown to cover the trellis with plenty of pods. It’s easy to walk under when picking beans.
I’m not sure what type of beans these are but their ancestry is Italian. My neighbor brought the seeds back years ago and we have been growing them ever since. They are delicious as young pods as well as dried beans later.

Once the weather was warm enough to remove the plastic from the cold frame, I put up a net in its place, see the first photo, to filter and soften the sunlight.  It reduces the light by about 50%.  Leafy vegetables like lettuce, Mitzuna, and Pac Choi prefer a little shade.   In the middle of summer, when the temperature is high and the sunlight is strong, these leafy vegetable will bolt easily and the lettuce will turn bitter.  With shade over them, they can take their time to grow, their leaves are crisp and sweet and the soil will dry more slowly.  I grow Bitter melon on the side of the frame structure and let them entwine themselves up the frame.  I gradually roll back the filtering net as the melon plant grows allowing it to take over shading the vegetables below.

Bittermelon growing up the frame (see first photo) and completely covering the top of the structure, providing shade for the leafy vegetables below.
The melon fruit hangs down making them easy to pick
Early in the season when the structure still cover with a filtering net. Vegetable that do well in semi-shade here are-Left front to back- Wasabi Arugula, Chinese broccoli, two types of lettuce. Right front to back- Mizuna, three types of Mustard greens
Later on when the melon plants cover the structure, I put in more lettuce like ‘Spotted Trout’ and ‘Truchas’

One down side of having the vegetables grow up the frame is that I have to cut them all down when the temperature threatens to drop close to freezing.  I need to put the plastic back on and turn it back into a cold frame again.  Most gardeners leave the plastic on but open the ends of the structure to let the air flow through in summer.  I could have done the same but I would lose growing space on the top of the structure.  I would also have to put a smaller frame over one of the 3’X18′ plots and cover it with a sunlight filtering net to grow these vegetable in the heat of summer.  I prefer to kill two birds with one stone: shade the vegetables and have extra growing space.

Flowers for Pollinators II

Vegetables And Herbs

As I mentioned in the previous post, I left some vegetables and herbs flowering for pollinators and for seeds.  It also helps to draw beneficial insects into the vegetable patch.  The downside is that these beneficial insects don’t discriminate, they eat anything they can grab, honeybees and bumblebees included.  But we never have to spray our vegetables.

Globe or Greek basil has very strong flavor for a very small basil. I let some flower and draw a lot of bees in
Globe or Greek basil has very strong flavor for a very small basil. It’s only 6 inches tall with tiny bright leaves.  I grow many types of basil and found that they cross pollinate as well.  Last year I planted seeds I collected from the Globe basil but the basil that grew from it turned to be a short basil with small green leaves, a hint of purple and with a Thai basil taste.
Anise hyssop is everyone favorite-bees, wasps, butterfly and I.
Anise hyssop is everyone’s favorite, bees, wasps, butterflies and myself.  I like to brush against it which causes it to release an anise aroma.  The tiny flowers are also good in salads or desserts as it has a sweet nectar and anise scent.  Once the flower fades, the American Goldfinches take over for the seeds.
This is a honey bee favorite, Garlic chive. The flower is edible with strong chive flavor. Sometime I wonder if it will make honey smell and taste like chive
This is a honey bee favorite, Garlic chive or Chinese chive.  The flower is edible with a strong chive flavor. Sometimes I wonder if it will make the honey smell and taste like chive.
Any type of mints will do, they love it. Just don't forget to cut the spent flower off otherwise there will be plenty of mints in the garden. I have that problem and have to pull seedlings out.
Any type of mint will do, they love it.  Just don’t forget to cut the spent flowers off otherwise there will be plenty of mint in the garden as it spreads like crazy.  I have that problem and have to pull seedlings out.
Borage has pretty lavender and pale pink color that taste like cucumber
Borage has pretty lavender and pale pink colors and tastes like cucumber.  Flowers are good in salads and sweets.  However, it self-sows easily and can take over your garden in no time.
I love broccoli raab for it bitter taste. The wild one is very hardy
I love broccoli raab for its bitter taste.  Birds love the seedpods. The wild one is very hardy.
Chinese broccoli is one of my favorite
Chinese broccoli is one of my favorites.  It’s great in soup, stir-fry.  It’s also very hardy and self-sows.
Saffron is a type of crocus that bloom in late summer. I let the bees have the pollen before I picked three stamens off to dry.
Saffron is a type of crocus that blooms in late summer.  I let the bees have the pollen before I harvested three stamens off to dry.
I plant lavender along our walkway and stonewall where we can brush against them to create aroma in the garden. Not that many flowers that are deer and rabbit proof but this is one of them
I plant lavender along our walkway and stonewall where we can brush against them to release their perfume in the garden.  Not that many flowers are deer and rabbit proof but this is one of them

There are many more herbs and vegetables in our garden as both of us love eating fresh vegetables and drinking herbal tea.  Rubbing fresh herbs in your hands for the scent is also very refreshing.  I think the herb pollen that mixes in with the honey is also a good medicinal property.

Next will be flowers for bees from what we love to hate….weeds.

Last Resource

Ode to a Honeybee In Late Autumn

We are having a warm autumn this year.  The daytime temperature is still hovering above 50° F on most days but drops back to slightly above 30° F at night.  We had frost for a couple of days early on in the season which killed off most of the garden.  So there is not much left for the bees.

Honeybees being honeybees, they still come out looking for food when the temperature is above 50° F and to relieve themselves as well.  We had fed them in mid-October but now we still worry that their food storage may not be enough for a winter that has not yet come.  Since they spend more energy flying around instead of semi-hybernating in the hive during this time of year, they probably have gone through more of their storage than usual.  So we are putting sugar syrup out on warm days.   They know exactly where the feeder is and zoom right to it.   They still go for any flowers they find blooming at this time of year: Alyssum, Chinese broccoli, Broccoli raab and…Saffron.

Alyssum, despite being tiny and low to the ground, they weather a light frost quite well. They smell like honey too.
Alyssum, despite being tiny and low to the ground, they weather a light frost quite well. They smell like honey too.
I let some broccoli raab flower and it turned out to be a good thing.
I let some broccoli raab flower and it turned out to be a good thing.
Honeybee collecting pollen from saffron flower
Honeybee collecting pollen from saffron flower

I should have grown more saffron but I always start small with any newbies.  If it fails I haven’t wasted much.  My fellow blogger suggested that I may be able to leave them outside since they are hardy to zone 6.  I will leave one pot out as an experiment.  If they are like other crocuses that bloom in spring (which I grow in the ground) they should be fine.  Then I can have plenty of saffron for tea and cooking, and plenty of food for honeybees in late autumn.

This girl didn't even wait for the Chinese broccoli to open fully
This girl didn’t even wait for the Chinese broccoli to open fully
They also go for the water at the heated birdbath
They also go for the water at the heated birdbath

Winter Vegetables

Getting Ready For Winter

There is not much left in the vegetable garden especially after temperatures dropped below 20º F.  I didn’t have time to cover the plants outside the cold frame: Mizuna, Broccoli Raab, Scallion, and Mustard Green.  But they perked up a little bit once the temperature climbed above 50º F.  Heavy snow is predicted for today so I harvested some Mizuna and Swiss Chard and steamed them with fresh tuna yesterday before they got buried under the snow.

This winter will be the second year we put up a cold frame.  Last year was our experiment in growing vegetables in winter under a cold frame without extra help from a heater.   We started the whole process very late last year and the winter was extreme, but we still had salad when it was freezing outside.  The frame nearly collapsed from heavy snow piled on it but it was very encouraging to be able to have fresh greens from our own garden in March.  We have assembled everything early this year.  We also added supporting bars to the hoops so we won’t have to hold our breath during a heavy snow fall.

Our cold frame last winter had become a little igloo.  The frame slightly collapsed inward from heavy snow.
Our cold frame last winter had become a little igloo. The frame slightly collapsed inward from heavy snow.
This year's cold frame with three additional supporting bars.
This year’s cold frame with three additional supporting bars.

I’ve sown Chinese Broccoli, Kale, Swiss chard, Chinese celery and Arugula in this plot in early September.  They’re growing quite nicely.  Mustard Green ‘Dragon Tongue’ sprouting up from fresh compost I added to the plot is a pleasant surprise.  Pac Choi seeds sown weeks ago also sprouted but turned out to be Mizuna instead.  This mislabeled seed package has become my problem lately since I frequently forget to label the seed pod packs when drying them.  Unfortunately they all tend to look alike.  Too late to sow another Pac Choi in there for this winter; they wouldn’t sprout until next spring.

Arugula and Swiss chard seedlings in early September.
Arugula and Swiss chard seedlings in early September.
Arugula and Swiss chard in late October
Arugula and Swiss chard in late October

Slugs have eaten all lettuce seedlings.  My second batch will have to be in the house as baby greens instead of full grown lettuce.  I put a beer filled container in there but only two slugs took the bait.  I think they only go for fresh beer, not the one that their comrades have already drowned in.  I picked off a few more fat slugs yesterday and don’t know when my next chance to check inside the frame will be, hopefully it will be cold enough to slow their metabolism down.

Chinese broccoli looks perky and happy in there.
Chinese broccoli looks perky and happy in there.
Swiss chard among Mustard green 'Dragon tongue' and Edible Chrysanthemum
Swiss chard among Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ and Edible Chrysanthemum

Now the slugs have moved on to devouring the Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ seedlings (above image).  Surprisingly enough they won’t touch the Edible Chrysanthemum sowed since spring.  It’s a vegetable worth growing because I can sow it once in spring and keep harvesting it until late fall.  I cut them again yesterday but left enough stems to see how they will weather this winter in the cold frame.

Snow is coming down today and expected to be around a foot by its end.  Hopefully I can make a path to the cold frame and pick some salad tomorrow.

 

Great references for growing winter vegetables:

  • Four-Season Harvest: Organic vegetables from your home garden all year long by Eliot Coleman
  • Salad Leaves For All Seasons: Organic growing from pot to plot by Charles Dowding

 

 

Good Spring For Greens

Not Much Else

It’s mid-June but some night’s the temperature still drops to the mid 50º F and with a cool wind blowing during the day, it feels more like late winter than late spring.  Roses love this weather, a combination of cool dry days with some rain in between.  Except when the rain pours down so hard that everything droops and petals are knocked to the ground.

Not much else wants to grow in the vegetable garden either.  Tomato, chili peppers, beans, bitter melon and basil grow at a slower pace.  The good thing is there are no black spots or mildew in sight, even with heavy rain.  I guess it has been too cold for these tiny life forms to grow.

Cooler weather, however, is good for the leafy greens like lettuce, pac choi, mustard green, arugula, edible chrysanthemum, and broccoli.  They retain their sweetness longer and are not quick to bolt.  I still cover them with a net to block out the midday sun.  Herbs love this weather too.  I couldn’t cut them fast enough.  July may be different so I’m taking advantage by picking greens and herbs when I still can.

Mustard green (Dragon Tongue), Red-leaf lettuce and Oak-leaf lettuce with hoops placed in interval so I can put a net on to block them from the hot sun
Mustard green (Dragon Tongue), Red-leaf lettuce and Oak-leaf lettuce with hoops placed in interval so I can put a net on to block them from the hot sun
Pac Choi and carrot
Pac Choi and carrot
Chinese broccoli, Cranberry bean, dill and Asparagus which I no longer cut so they can cultivate nutrients for next year.
Chinese broccoli, Cranberry bean, dill and Asparagus which I no longer cut so they can cultivate nutrients for next year.
One of the two varieties of edible Chrysanthemum I'm growing for the first time this year
One of the two varieties of edible Chrysanthemum I’m growing for the first time this year