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Broccoli Gardening

Broccoli Gardening

broccoli gardening Broccoli is a nutritious vegetable, high in dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals

Broccoli, Brassica oleracea var. Italica, belongs to the plant species Brassica oleracea, that also includes several other common cultivars including cabbage, Brussels sprout, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens. The short, thick-stemmed plant from the Brassicaceae family is native to eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. It’s a herbaceous annual plant grown for its edible flower heads. If you want to attempt broccoli gardening, you should know the plant grows to about 24 to 36 inches high with thick, branching leathery leaves, and dense clusters of flower heads, usually green in color. It’s a cool season vegetable that takes between 60 to 150 days for the heads to come to harvest, depending on the variety.

Types & Varieties of Broccoli

Broccoli is a nutritious vegetable, high in dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals. It’s an excellent source of potassium, folic acid, and Vitamins A, B and K. Though most superstores only sell a few standard types, there is a wide range of broccolis to grow and harvest for home gardeners.

Common Varieties of Broccoli:

BelstarThis hybrid variety produces 6-inch blue green heads that take about 65 days to reach maturity. Once the main crown is picked, the variety is also known for producing a series of side shoots for further harvests.

Blue Wind F1 – This is an extra early maturing variety, producing large dense heads that take about 60 days to mature. The side shoot production is also commendable.

Di Cicco – It’s an Italian heirloom variety that produces its initial crowns in as little as 50 days, followed by side shoots. The plants mature at different rates, making it an excellent choice for home gardeners, giving a consistent supply of broccolis to the kitchen.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – With purple flower heads instead of the typical green broccolis, the variety is much sweeter than others. It matures slower than others and is typically planted as a biennial to harvest in the following spring. 

Broccoli yields 4 to 6 pounds from a 10-foot row. Space individual plants 18 to 24 inches apart, with a 3-feet spacing between rows and plan about 2 to 4 plants per person.

Temperature and Timing for Growing Broccoli

Broccoli is a cool-season crop that’s typically planted in late winters or early spring for harvesting in early summer. For broccoli gardening a second crop can be planted in late summers for a fall harvest. Broccolis grow best when the temperatures are between 40°F to 70°F. High temperatures negatively impact the development of the heads, so gardeners aim to bring it to harvest before the temperatures soar.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Broccoli prefers full sun but if the temperatures are higher, partial shade may be better to prevent the plants from bolting.

Broccoli grow best in rich, fertile soil amended with plenty of organic matter and with a neutral soil pH.

How to Plant Broccoli

Broccoli gardening begins by starting the seeds indoors, 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. It can also be started by direct sowing in the garden, 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost. Work the soil with 2 to 4 inches of aged compost in early spring before sowing the seeds. When planting outdoors, sow the seeds ½ inches deep in soil and 3 inches apart.

Water the soil and maintain it consistently moist throughout the germination phase. Once the seedlings emerge and grow to a height of 2 to 3 inches, thin them to maintain an 18 to 24-inch spacing between the plants.

If started indoors, transplants can go into the garden after hardening off, once they are 4 to 6 weeks old. Plant the transplants 18 to 24 inches apart, setting them slightly deeper in the planting holes than they were in the containers. Water the transplants well just after planting.

Fertilize the transplants with a low-nitrogen formula 3 weeks after planting them in the garden. Provide 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week, maintaining consistent moisture for best development. Always water at the base and avoid getting the developing heads wet. Mulch around the plants to suppress weeds.

Harvest

Towards the end of a successful broccoli growing season, you’ll have plenty of beautiful flower heads to harvest. Here’s how to pick them:

  • Harvest the buds as soon as they’re the size of a large fist, while they’re firm and dense, just before flowering.
  • If you wait too long to harvest, the buds open and the quality of the heads fall. You can still eat them but the texture is tougher.
  • Cut the heads from the base with 4 inches of stalk attached.
  • Let the plant grow after harvesting the main head and side shoots will develop. The new flower heads will be smaller in size than the main head but taste just as good.

Storing

Broccoli stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Store unwashed broccoli loosely wrapped in damp paper towels in the fridge and consume them within the next few days. If you want to store it for longer, you can freeze it after blanching and use it for up to one year. 

Pests and Diseases

Pests

  • Aphids suck the plants’ sap, leaving curling and discolored leaves. Hose them off the plants with a strong jet of water. If the plants are severely infested, insecticidal soap or neem oil can help.
  • Cabbage worms feed on broccoli leaves, causing serious damage to the plants. If handpicking does not help, in the case of serious infestations, treating with Bacillus thuringiensis is typically effective.
  • Flea beetles leave small holes in the foliage, killing off the seedlings and reducing the yield for mature plants. White sticky traps can help capture the insects. Insecticides are also helpful if used early in the season.

Diseases

  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that appears as white patches with purple blotching on leaf surfaces. The thick powdery layer coats the leaves, causing them to eventually drop off the plant. If the disease persists, it spreads to the stem and head. Plant resistant varieties, rotate crops, keep the foliage dry and avoid using excessive nitrogen fertilizers to prevent the problem.

Applying all the information you’ve learned from this article, you’re ready to begin a successful and rewarding broccoli growing season.

Okra Gardening

Okra Gardening

Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, is a herbaceous annual plant from the mallow family, Malvaceae, and is cultivated for its edible seed pods. It’s widely grown in most tropical regions of the world. Plants can grow up to 1.2 to 1.8 meters and typically survive only one growing season. It bears heart-shaped lobed leaves, and yellow flowers with a crimson center. You need to know that when okra gardening, this heat-loving vegetable crop grows through the warm season, coming to harvest by the end of summer. The fruit is picked and consumed while it’s young and unripe. Mature seed pods are tough for consumption.

Types & Varieties of Okra

Okra is rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fibers and low on calories, making it an excellent addition to your diet. Plenty of varieties are available, distinguished with their length of growing season, size of the plant and appearance and taste of the fruits. ‘Spineless’ varieties also exist that lack the tiny spines on the seed pods that irritate your skin upon handling.

Common varieties of Okra:

Annie Oakley IIThe plant grows to about 4 feet tall, maturing in about 52 days and bears spineless seed pods.

Clemson Spineless – These are the most popular varieties in markets and produce 4-feet tall plants, with a spread of about 48 inches. The variety matures in 55 to 60 days, giving ‘spineless’ fruit that can grow to 9 inches in length.  

Park’s Candelabra Branching – It’s a base-branching variety for easier harvest.

Cajun Delight – It’s a good choice for gardeners with shorter growing seasons since it takes only 50 to 55 days to mature. The plant reaches to about 4 feet tall, giving 3 to 5 inch long dark green seed pods for harvest.

In the ideal conditions, a single okra plant can yield 20 to 30 or even more seed pods. If you’re growing a self-sufficient garden, plan to grow 3 to 3 okra plants per person.

Temperature and Timing for growing Okra

Okra is a warm-season crop that’s planted 2 to 3 weeks after all the dangers of frost have passed in the region and the soil temperature is at least 60°F. The ideal growing temperatures range from 75°F to 90°F.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Okra grows best with full sun exposure for at least 8 hours a day. Plant it in fertile, well-drained soil that’s slightly on the acidic side, with soil pH between 5.8 and 7.0.

How to Plant Okra

Okra gardening begins when you start seeds indoors in peat pots 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost. Grow the seedlings under grow lights until they are ready to go in the garden 5 to 6 weeks later. Seedlings should be hardened off before transplanting them in the garden. Space the transplants 1 to 2 feet apart for optimal development.

Alternatively, you can start the seeds directly in the garden 2 to 3 weeks after all the dangers of frost have passed. Plant the okra seeds ½ to 1 inch deep in the ground, spacing them a foot apart in rows. Space the rows 3 to 4 feet apart to give ample room to the plants to grow. You can also plant the seeds closer together and then thin them once seedlings emerge.

Keep the planting bed well-weeded while the plants are still young and apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch around them to suppress weeds. Offer the plants 1 inch of water per week or more if you live in a very hot region. Side-dress the plants with aged compost every 3 to 4 weeks for best results.

Harvest

After a successful okra garden growing season, you can look forward to a hefty harvest. Here’s how to harvest okra:

okra gardening, this heat-loving vegetable crop grows through the warm season
  • Okra is ready to harvest in 2 months after planting the seeds.
  • Harvest the seed pods while they’re still young and tender. They should ideally be around 2 to 3 inches long for best texture.
  • Wear gloves when harvesting okra because most varieties have spines that may irritate the skin. Spineless varieties may be harvested without gloves.
  • Continue harvesting the pods every other day to boost further fruiting.
  • Cut the stem just above the pod with a sharp knife to harvest the okras. If the stem is too hard, the okra has matured beyond what’s suitable for consumption. Remove it from the plant and toss it.
  • Remove the lower leaves after the first harvest to speed up production of further seed pods.

Storing

Okra lasts only 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Wrap unwashed okra in paper towels or place them in a paper bag before storing in the fridge.

If you want to store for longer, transfer okras without cutting or cooking to freezer bags and place them in the freezer. When stored in the freezer in this way, they can last for up to a year. You can continue using them as needed through the winter months.

Pests and Diseases

Pests

  • Aphids are a common problem with okra plants and can be avoided by growing tolerant varieties. If the infestation is heavy, insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils are a good way to control it.
  • Corn earworms can infest the plants, causing damage to the leaves, buds, flowers and pods. Bacillus thuringiensis can help control these insects naturally.
  • Cucumber beetles may also affect okra plants, damaging the leaves and stems, leaving the plants susceptible to bacterial wilt. Adult beetles also feed on the fruit, leaving behind unsightly scars. Kaolin clay can manage smaller infestations, while you’ll need to use insecticides if the infestation is heavy.

Diseases

  • Powdery mildew often affects okra plants, causing the leaves to roll upwards and give a scorched appearance. Application of suitable fungicides can control the problem, especially in its early stages.
  • Yellow vein mosaic disease is a common viral disease that infects the okra plants and is identified by yellow and green alternating patches on the infected leaves. Fruits are also yellowish and smaller in size. Plant resistant varieties and keep the field weed-free. Once the plant is infected, it will have to be removed to prevent the disease from spreading to the neighboring plants.

Hopefully, with all the things you’ve learned in this article, you can start the perfect okra gardening season and enjoy loads of fresh harvests.

Turnip Gardening

Turnip Gardening

turnip gardening patch

Turnip, Brassica Rapa, is a herbaceous annual or biennial plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family. It has been cultivated as a cool-season vegetable for thousands of years for its edible leaves and roots. Historians believe that turnips originated somewhere in middle and eastern Asia. Today, they are grown in most temperate parts of the world for human consumption and livestock fodder. The plant forms short stems above the ground that bear light green leaves in the form of a rosette above the root. The taproot is round and plump with a combination of purple and white on the outer skin. Though it is a biennial plant that flowers and sets seeds in the second growing season, when turnip gardening the plants are often grown as an annual in early spring or fall and harvested after one growing season.

Types & Varieties of Turnip

Though you might have only seen half purple, half white tennis ball-sized turnips in grocery stores, there are tons of varieties beyond that. There’s a range of colors, sizes, and shapes to select from besides the flavors of roots and leafy tops and the time they take to reach maturity.

Common Varieties of Turnip:

Purple Top White GlobeThis is the standard turnip variety that you find in grocery stores. It forms a 4 to 6 inches wide globe underground with a white bottom and a purple top. It takes between 50 to 55 days to reach maturity and has a spicy flavor that works well in stews and broths.

Baby Bunch Turnips – With small globular roots, about 1 inch in diameter, baby bunch turnips are harvested when they are still much younger than standard turnips. The crunchy flesh is similar to radish and works great in salads and cooked recipes.

Tokyo Cross – This hybrid variety is an AAS winner for the uniform, fast-maturing turnips it produces with mildly sweet and crispy flesh. The turnips are 3 to 6 inches wide white globes that are ready to be picked in just about 30 to 35 days.

Scarlet QueenDifferent from others, this is a hybrid variety that produces turnips with bright red skin and white flesh. The turnips are slightly flat from the top and are harvested in 40 to 45 days.

For a self-sufficient garden, grow 5 to 10 turnip plants per person, spacing them 5 to 8 inches apart in rows. The rows should be spaced 15 to 24 inches apart.

Temperature and Timing for Growing Turnip

Turnip is a cool-season crop, best planted in early spring or fall when the temperatures are cooler. They take between 1 to 2 months to harvest and grow best when temperatures are between 40 to 70°F. For early season turnip gardening, you can sow the seeds in the ground 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost for harvesting in late spring. You can also plant them in late summers for an autumn harvest and in late autumn for a winter harvest.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Turnips thrive in full sun but will also grow well in partial shade. Well-drained, fertile soil with pH slightly on the acidic side (5.5 to 6.8) is best for turnip gardening. Prepare the planting bed well in advance by incorporating plenty of compost or aged manure.  If your garden soil is heavy or clayey, amend it with sand or gypsum for the roots to develop easily.

How to Plant Turnip

For turnip gardening, just like any other root vegetable, turnips don’t transplant well. They are best planted by sowing the seeds directly in the garden once the weather is favorable. Although nursery transplants are available, most gardeners grow turnips by sowing seeds in the garden as soon as the soil is workable in early spring or 2 to 3 weeks before the last expected frost date.

The seeds are sown ½ inches deep in the ground and 1 inch apart in rows. Space rows 15 to 24 inches apart. Once the seedlings emerge and are 3 to 4 inches tall, you can thin them to maintain a 4 to 6-inch gap between the plants. The thinned seedlings make an excellent addition to salads.

Water well right after planting and keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. Underwatered turnips will produce small and woody roots and may also cause the plants to bolt. On the other hand, overwatering promotes diseases, so it’s important to maintain just the right level of moisture. Mulching can help maintain optimal moisture in the soil for the plants and also protects the turnips from frost damage. Since turnips have a rather short growing season, they don’t generally need any fertilization, especially if you grow them in rich, fertile soil.

For a prolonged harvest season, you can practice succession planting every 10 to 14 days, keeping in mind that they can come to harvest before the temperatures soar above 70°F.

Since turnips are small plants, you can easily grow them in containers. Small roots can grow in pots that are at least 8 inches deep. For larger varieties, you’ll need to choose bigger containers.

Harvest

As the growing season approaches a successful end, the plump turnips roots are ready to be picked from the ground. Here’s how to harvest turnips:

  • You can start harvesting the leaves and stems once they are at least 12 inches long but allow the roots to develop further. However, only remove the outer leaves, letting the inner leaves to continue growing and producing the energy that will fuel root growth. 
  • Depending on the variety, turnips take between 30 to 60 days to come to harvest after sowing the seeds.
  • As the turnips approach harvest, their purple shoulders will push out of the soil and are visible above the ground.
  • Lift the roots from the ground using a garden fork once the shoulders are 2 to 3 inches wide. Take care not to puncture the roots with your gardening tools.
  • Fall crop should be harvested after a few light frosts but before a hard freeze since extreme cold can cause the roots to crack or rot.

Storing

Turnip greens will only stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week. The roots can last for months if you store them properly. The ideal temperature for storing turnips is between 32 to 35°F. A small harvest can be stored in the fridge, but if you have lots of turnips to store, a cool, dark place such as a root cellar or garage will be ideal. Remove and consume the green tops before storing the turnip roots since the leaves will continue drawing energy from the roots if left attached to them.

Pest and Diseases

Pests

  • Caterpillars, including cabbage loopers, diamondback moths, and beet army worms love eating turnip leaves. The most straightforward approach to get rid of them is to handpick and destroy them. Alternatively, you can spray the plants with Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Aphids suck the sap from the leaves of turnip plants, leaving behind a sticky substance called honeydew that promotes the development of molds on the plants. Small infestations can be catered to by removing the infested leaves. In the case of large infestations, hose them off with water or spray the plants with neem oil.
  • Root maggots attack the roots and are, therefore, more problematic than other pests. The flies of these worms lay eggs around the plants. The larvae feed on the roots, leaving tunnels in the flesh and causing the plant to shrivel and die. Remove and destroy the infested plants to prevent the spread to the surrounding plants.

Diseases

  • White rust fungus can affect turnips and is observed by the development of white spots on the upper surface of the leaves and yellow spots on the underside. The disease is not serious, and the roots typically remain unaffected. Buy disease-free seeds and plant them in a well-drained garden bed free from any previous season’s debris. 
  • Downy mildew can affect turnip crops in cold conditions and is a serious disease because it can destroy the roots. It is identified as yellow, brown spots on the leaves that expand as the disease progresses. Preventive fungicide sprays can control the spread to other plants if you suspect the disease in your garden. Control weeds and excessively moist conditions to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.

That’s all the information about turnip gardening that you’ll need to get started on your own. Follow all the tips and enjoy loads of juicy, spicy homegrown turnips!

Carrot Gardening Information

Carrot Gardening Information for the Gardener

Carrots belong to the Apiaceae family, which also includes dill, cilantro, parsley, and celery. Though they’re biennial plants, carrot gardening typically cultivates the root as annuals, harvesting the long taproot at the end of the first season. If allowed to continue growing, they will flower and set seeds during the second year. Carrots produce a rosette of leaves above the ground and a long, fleshy taproot below the soil. Depending on the variety, the root can grow between 2 to 20 inches long, with a diameter of up to 2 inches. During the first year, the foliage typically reaches a height of around 12″. During the second year, when it flowers, the plant can grow as tall as 59 inches.

Types And Varieties

Besides being crunchy and tasty, carrots are nutritious vegetables. They are a good source of fibers, beta carotene, potassium, and antioxidants. Many different types of carrots exist, ranging in color, sizes, and shapes. Besides the orange-colored carrots you’re familiar with, yellow, white, red, and purple carrots also exist.

Common Varieties Of Carrots

  • Deep Purple Hybrid – This 7 to 8 inches long carrot reaches maturity in 75 to 80 days and comes in a deep purple color to make a bright addition to salads and dips. Though the unique hue runs all the way through the root, it will fade a bit when cooked, which is why it’s usually consumed raw. 
  • Little Fingers – Maturing earlier than others, this variety can be harvested in only 55 days. The miniature roots, up to 4 inches in length, feature an attractive orange color and are packed with sweetness.
  • Touchon – This is a sweet and tender heirloom variety that matures earlier than most others and is great for salads. The classic orange roots take about 65 days to mature, reaching a length of 6 inches.
  • Solar Yellow It’s a beautiful yellow heirloom carrot, sweet and crisp in flavor. They grow to about 7 inches in length, maturing in about 60 to 70 days from germination.

Carrots yield about 7 to 10 pounds for every 10-foot row. Grow about 30 plants for each person spacing them 1.5 to 2 inches apart in rows spaced at least 1 foot apart.

Temperature and Timing For Growing Carrots

Carrots are cool-season crops that are best grown in early spring and late fall. Day temperatures of 75°F and night temperatures of 55°F are best for their growth. You can sow the seeds outdoors 3 to 5 weeks before the last spring frost for a spring crop. Successive plantings can be continued until late spring for a continued harvest in the summers. For a fall crop, you can start planting 10 weeks before the first fall frost.

Sun Exposure And Soil Requirements

Though they can tolerate partial shade, carrots grow best when exposed to full sunlight. Make sure they get about 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Loose soil, sandy or loamy, is very important for carrot gardening to grow long straight roots. Work the soil before planting the seeds and remove any stones and debris from the area. Amend it with plenty of organic matter and compost.

How To Plant Carrots

Carrot gardening starts by sowing the seeds directly in the garden, 3 to 5 weeks before the last spring frost. Since they have long taproots, it’s recommended not to disturb them by transplanting. They are best planted in their permanent spot right from the start. Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep, spaced 1 to 2 inches apart in rows that are at least a foot apart. You can sow them closer together and thin them to 3 inches apart once they are around 4 inches tall. Cut off the top with scissors instead of pulling out the roots since they may damage the surrounding roots.

You’ll have to wait for around 2 to 3 weeks to see sprouting. Keep the soil moist during germination by sprinkling water frequently. Spread a thin layer of vermiculite over the soil surface to prevent it from forming a crust. Since the carrot seeds are very small, they’ll have a harder time sprouting if the soil forms a hard crust over them.

Provide about 1 inch of water per week during the first few weeks of development, increasing to about 2 inches per week as the roots approach maturity. Water the carrots deeply each time the soil dries out to a depth of 3 inches (you can check with your finger). Carrots follow the moisture into the soil, so if you water them deeply and less often instead of frequent, shallow watering, you’ll find long straight roots.

Keep the bed well weeded, but snip the weeds instead of pulling them so you don’t disturb the developing roots. Once the tops are 3 to 4 inches tall, you can fertilize the crop with a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-15-15. Excess nitrogen will promote green growth instead of favoring the roots.

Harvest

At the end of a successful carrot gardening season, you can expect a bright, flavorful harvest. Here’s how to harvest carrots:

  • Harvest the roots as soon as they reach the expected size. If you allow them to grow too big, they’ll start losing their flavor and will grow tougher.
  • Gently push away some dirt from the top of one of the carrots to check the size. Shey should be at least ½ an inch in diameter at the time of harvest. However, the exact size varies with the variety.
  • When growing carrots in spring, make sure you harvest them before the temperatures soar. High temperatures can turn the roots too fibrous.
  • For a fall harvest, let them stay in the ground, exposed to one or more frosts since it will enhance the flavors. If you want to keep them in the ground for harvesting later, spread several inches of mulch over them to keep them well protected.
  • When it’s time to harvest, loosen the earth around them and lift them gently out of the soil with your hands, taking care not to break the roots.

Storing

Cut off the excess foliage, leaving ½ inch attached to the top. Wash away the dirt and wrap it unpeeled in damp paper towels before keeping them in the refrigerator. Stored in this way, fresh carrots can last up to a month.

You can also keep them in the ground through the winters and dig them as needed unless the ground freezes over. However, if left in the ground all winter long, be sure to harvest them before spring when the tops resume new growth.

If the ground is expected to freeze during the winters, you can keep the carrots in the ground mulched with a 12 to 18-inch layer of shredded leaves, hay, or straw.

Pests And Diseases

Pests

  • Carrot rust fly is a common problem for carrot crops growing in temperate regions. The larvae dig through the roots eating the carrot and leaving unsightly holes on the surface. Install row covers at the time of planting before the adult fly has a chance to lay eggs around the plants.
  • Aphids are soft-bodied insects that can usually be spotted on the underside of leaves and are green or yellow in color. They secrete a sugary substance that promotes the growth of mold on plants. If the infestation is limited to a few leaves or shoots, you can prune them out to prevent spread to the surrounding shoots and plants. Insecticidal soaps can also be used to control spread.

Diseases

  • Alternaria blight is a fungal disease that appears as brown water-soaked lesions on leaves’ edges. Initially, the older leaves are affected, curling and eventually dying as a result. If the disease hits the crop at an early stage, roots are unable to reach maturity. Grow resistant varieties and avoid soaking the leaves when watering the plants to protect the plants from this disease.

With this article, you are ready to start a successful carrot growing season!