Tag Archives: mustard

Spring Snarky Thoughts 2014

The Snarky Gardener is ready for the growing season

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The Snarky Gardener at an apple pruning workshop – 3/29/2014

Spring has been a fun and interesting time to be a snarky gardener. I’ve taken in some workshops, and taken in some new edible varieties. Last year was all about growing my own starts and saving seeds. This year so far seems to be about expanding my knowledge, contacts (through Food Not Lawns and the Kent Community TimeBank), and perennial plantings.

In March I took two workshops – one for bee keeping and one for tree pruning. Looks like bees will be a future project though now I’m now a member of the Stark County (Ohio) Beekeepers Association (even have a cool membership card in my wallet). A very passionate group but I’m not quite ready to have so many little lives dependent on me. The tree pruning workshop did pay immediate benefits as there’s an old apple tree way in the back yard. I’m not real fond of getting up on a ladder but the tree is 30 feet tall so not much a choice.  It did produce (small and holey) fruit last year and I’m hoping for better this season.  In early May, I attended a WordPress “camp”, where I picked up new knowledge to help these blog entries and this site be better for you.  I also concluded my permaculture class prematurely as my schedule has been full as of late.

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May 2014 Garden Plan

With permaculture slowly but surely changing my point of view, I’ve taken some steps to make my domain more permanent and perennial.  My two part article written earlier this year discussed perennial plant possibilities and I’ve taken steps to make them reality.  For the Snarky Garden, Egyptian Walking onions, ground nuts, mushrooms, strawberry spinach, and perennial kale (from Territorial) will be added to compliment already established sunchokes, strawberries, corn salad (via self seeding) and comfrey.  The whole north part (top in the plan) is evolving into only perennials.  I’ll never move to a whole perennial garden (I love tomatoes and potatoes too much), but half would be nice. Also, my foraging is getting more serious with grazing of garlic mustard, dandelion greens, hostas and violets picked right out of the yard.  I wanted to do maple syrup, but missed the February/March window, but there’s always next year.

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Garlic Mustard
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Egyptian Walking Onions from the Kent Community TimeBank

The Snarky Gardener is now selling seeds online

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Snarky Orange cherry tomatoes available online

Heirloom and non-GMO seeds are now available for purchase with free shipping.

All have been raised and saved at Snarky Acres.

Click here to order today!

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Seven Top Turnips – Heirloom grown just for their tops, though the Snarky Gardener has used the roots in soups and stocks.
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Tendergreen – Heirloom determinate bush beans ready in 60 days or less. Plant several times in a season to get constant pickings through the summer.
 

How to Save Mustard, Kale, and Turnip Seed

Are you growing (or planning to grow) mustard, kale, or turnips?

Did you know it’s easy to save your own seed?

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Seven Top Turnips going to seed spring 2013
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Snarky Mustard going the seed fall 2013

Mustard, kale, and turnips basically all go to seed the same way. When they get stressed (hot weather, etc) or are overwintered, these plants send up stalks and put out flowers. These flowers are beautiful and functional, as they bring beneficial insects to your garden.  Once the stalks are produced (also called “bolting”), the leaves themselves become bitter as the plant puts its energy into getting busy (cue the Barry White music) reproducing.

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Mustard flowers and pods

The seed is ready to collect once the stalks turn brown and dry out. Unfortunately, the pods don’t all dry out at once, with the ones closer to the base of the plant going first. If you wait until they are completely ready, some seed will escape onto the ground and you’ll have babies starting before you know it. This is a good thing if you are trying to get a perennial supply of yummy greens. Not so good if you have plans for that area in the form of other crops. But, as I always say, edible weeds are better than inedible weeds.

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Dried out stalks stuffed into a plastic trash bag

The best system I’ve found so far to collect this type of seed is through the use of garden cutters and trash bags. Just snip below the pods and put the top into the bag. This way you can squish and crush up the pods in the bag and have the tiny little seeds fall to one corner. Cut the corner tip as small as you can and release the seed. You will get some chaff (fancy word of the day) but only some, not all.

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Cut the tip of the bag to release just the smallest parts – seeds and some chaff
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Seeds and chaff
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Tip the container to collect the seeds to one side and pick out the other stuff

If all goes right, you can put the separated seed into a holding vessel (like this glass jar pictured below).  Once there, you can shake it to force the lighter chaff to the top for more removal.  You could also use a screen to sift out the extra material.

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The finished product

Good luck and happy gardening!

Let It Snow (twice)!

This fall we’ve had serious snow twice so far (several inches each time) here in Northeastern Ohio. While most people have not even thought about their gardens since the first freeze back in October, the early snow had me worried. Many of my fall duties were incomplete, including digging up and bringing in my rosemary herbs (they died out there last winter – sniff). Also, the fall leaves I gathered into big honking piles did not get as distributed as I would have liked. I found out this summer that some plants (lettuce, spinach, kale, turnips, peas, corn salad) could be covered with mulch 5 or 6 inches deep in the fall to “overwinter” them. Then in mid-March, you just pull off the leaves and viola, they will start growing again. Nifty trick having food producing plants when other unsnarky gardeners are still planning for the summer.  Anyways, I was finally able to finish these tasks on 12/4/2013 with most of my fall babies no worse for wear.

If you look at the pictures below, you will notice some of my plants didn’t do as well by December (especially the sad Swiss chard in the middle foreground). In the back left, my mustard is going to seed, which is good because I needed more for cooking and next year’s crop. But you will also see that there’s quite a bit of green considering it’s December in Ohio. On the right foreground, my purple top turnips are looking great. I will thin these out (yum) and mulch the rest in the next week or so. Also, near the Swiss chard, you should be able to make out bright green areas near the ground. That’s my corn salad and onions, all ready to eat. We used them plus mustard greens, carrots, and kale to make a wonderfully fresh salad (again, in December in Ohio).

P.S.  I don’t think “unsnarky” is a word, but with use it will soon become one.

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Snow on 11/12/2013
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Snow on 11/12/2013
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Melted snow on 11/16/2013
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Snow melted on 11/16/2013
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Snow again on 11/30/2013
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Snow again on 11/30/2013
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Melted snow again on 12/04/2013
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Snow melted again on 12/04/2013

Succession Planting 2013

Succession planting is the process of planting one crop after another.  This sometimes means planting something every two weeks (like bush green beans or lettuce) so that you can have a continuous supply.  Other times it means the gardener (snarky or not) will plant something in the spring (like spinach or peas) and then when it peters out with the warming weather, put in something else (like corn or squash), then when summer comes to a close, grow fall crops (like turnips or mustard or spinach).  For my garden, I do both with a preference for the spring/summer/fall system, as I like to grow as much as possible for as long as possible (insert smugness here).

Here’s an example with my summer potatoes and then my fall turnips, peas, and corn salad.

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Potatoes in early Summer 2013
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Turnips, peas, and corn salad in Fall 2013

Here is my monthly garden progression so you get the idea of succession over a whole season.

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March 2013

In April, I decided to use Cascade bush peas to get my Three Sisters corn/beans/squash mounds started. They make a good spring time filler while the gardener waits for the temperatures to stabilize above freezing.

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April 2013

By the way, this was the first time I coerced my Three Sisters garden to actually work out in three years, with the beans going up the corn like they were supposed to instead not growing at all.  Persistence pays off this time – yeah me.

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May 2013
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June 2013

The turnips in the top middle near the potatoes were totally accidental as I let one of my Purple Top turnips go to seed. I’ll try to use the same technique next year by moving some of my overwintered turnips (bottom left quadrant in September) to other parts of my garden.  I planted the upper row of Tendergreen bush beans first and then the second row about 2 or 3 weeks later.  I would have done a third row in August but the pumpkins ended up taking over from the west.  This area will be planted with Roma tomatoes next year. (Yes, I’m already neurotically planning next year’s garden, including a new one in my front yard next to my tree line).

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July 2013

The Ho Mi Z mustard in the upper right corner is currently going to seed as of this November post.  I’m going to collect as much as I can, but there will definitely be random mustard all over the place next year.  Again, I love to have edible weeds (or volunteers as they are sometimes called).  The mustard was planted as a “cover crop” as I knew I was putting in potatoes in that area next year. Mustard is supposed to help potatoes by countering nematodes and weeds. Plus you get delicious greens for salads, etc and seeds for cooking and making mustard. I picked Ho Mi Z (aka Dragon Tongue) because it was on sale at Johnny’s Seeds last year.

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Mustard going to seed – Fall 2013
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August 2013

The Tyee spinach, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia), and Cascade peas will be covered with leaf mulch this fall and uncovered in the middle of next March.  This will allow them to overwinter and be ready to go in the spring, saving a month or two of potential growth.  This will be my first year trying this, so I’ll post my findings for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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September 2013
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October 2013
November 2013
November 2013

Fall Gardening 2013

This year we got lucky here in Northeast Ohio and didn’t get our below freezing weather until late October.  But I wasn’t worried about it (OK, maybe a little) because I already had my fall gardening plan in play.  Back in August and September, I prepped several areas (including my summertime potato/pumpkin patch) and planted some fall crops, including purple top turnips, peas, onions, carrots, mustard, spinach, and corn salad (aka mache).  All of these can handle and even thrive in cool temperatures and occasional frosts.  When you add in my already growing Swiss chard, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and various herbs, this fall will be delicious right up to Christmas and beyond. Makes me feel a little sorry for those gardeners who till up their gardens in the fall and wait until next May to plant again (like my next door neighbors).

Garden as of November 1, 2013
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Garden as of 7/29/2013
Turnips, Peas, and Corn Salad – 11/4/2013
Dragon Tongue Mustard going to seed – 11/4/2013

This spring, I let my overwintered corn salad go to seed, spreading some of the spent plants all around my garden during May (call me Snarky Mache Seed).  This August, I noticed little corn salad plants growing all over, as some chillier weather woke up the seeds just as my summer plants were winding down.  Corn salad is probably the most cold weather adapted crop I have in my garden and will be available for eating all the way into January.  My evil plan this year was to get it established so it would just come up on it’s own year after year.  I just love perennials (even when they aren’t technically considered as such).  My logic is that if I’m going to have “weeds” come up in my garden, they should be edible.

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Nice examples of corn salad in my garden – April 2013
Corn salad spontaneously growing around corn – 11/4/2013

Besides the planting and harvesting, I also have one other major garden activity – leaf mulching.  I bought a lawn sweeper last year so I could fill my garden with them (including some new areas that had previously been lawn). The effort was quite the success as my weeds were down (except in the back where the leaves were scarce) and my soil seemed to get better. This year I’m making concerted effort to pile the leaves around as evenly as possible so I can spread the wealth, so to speak. I even piled them up on my new garlic bed, located outside the fence to the west of my garden. Even the groundhogs won’t bother garlic so it made no sense to grow it inside like I did this past year. And of course, unlike last year, I remembered to split up the bulbs into cloves and only planted the biggest.

Fall leaves soon to be garden mulch – 11/4/2013
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Lawn Sweeping on 11/9/2013

 

Seed Saving 2013

With the start of fall comes my seed saving efforts.  With a bounty of seeds, I’ve been considering setting up some type of Internet-based sales site, but that might have to wait until late in 2014.  For now, I’m going to limit my myself to trading, swapping, and time credits from the Kent Community TimeBank.

Tomatoes:

Sylvia’s Amish Low Acid Red

Chocolate Cherry

Snarky Orange Cherry
F3 of Sun Gold (F1)

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Tomato Seed Saving technique
Peppers:

Jalapeno (from my AeroGarden)

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Beans:

Jacob’s Cattle Dry

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Rattlesnake Pole – both green and dry

I grew Rattlesnake beans up my corn and my tomato cages this year.

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Rattlesnake Pole beans on my corn – 7/17/2013
Tendergreen Bush – green

Bean: Tendergreen Improved image

Mustard:

Ho-Mi Z (Dragon Tongue)

Turnips:

Seven Top

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Seven Top Turnips going to seed

Lettuce:

Amish Deer Tongue

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Amish Deer Tongue lettuce going to seed.