Monthly Archives: April 2014

Red Radish: My First Crack at Planting Early

Until last year, I never believed that you could put plants out before the frost in our area, even though I had read that people do it all over the place I just thought that our spring might be too harsh. This kept me from planting anything outdoors too early in the season, which lead to me waiting and likely missing out on an extra crop of early, quick growing plants like radishes.

I will admit, with the weather that we have been having as of late, with the snow and cold temperatures, I didn’t think I would be planting early this year either even though I wanted to. They are predicting snow again on the weekend, but the temperatures will be mild compared to what they have been with lows only being around freezing. While these aren’t ideal conditions, especially for germinating seeds, I did remember something that should get me an extra crop of early radishes.

Though I’ve yet to build my new greenhouse due mostly to the weather and the fact that during most days I don’t have my truck to drive to get materials, I do have a tiny plastic greenhouse tent. I used it last season to help my pumpkins, corn, and cucumbers to get extra light and sun that wasn’t being provided in the house due to the needs of the other seedlings we had taking up all of the window space.

Red Radish

It worked great for the most part, the pumpkins, corn, and grass underneath it took off like gangbusters, but the cucumbers dried out a few times, and suffered all season due to my neglect. I think the results for the radishes will be equally good, even though we are still a month (perhaps more) out from out last frost date.

Once the radishes were planted, I put the mini greenhouse tent over top of them and added two four litre jugs of water to the inside. These will act as heat sinks, heating up through the day, and slowly releasing that heat overnight to keep the plants warm, and if it gets too cold, they can be taken out and filled with warm water so that they can do their job on days that it doesn’t warm up.

I then added a thermometer to the tent; when I put it inside it was reading 10 Celsius (about 50 Fahrenheit), after a few minutes of clean up, and the taking of a picture, it was reading 15 C (59 f). An hour later when I checked, it was up to about 18 C (almost 65 f). Not bad for a day that has been mostly cloudy with a cool wind blowing.

I am still not 100% sure I will get good sized radishes out of my little experiment, not because I don’t think that they will germinate and grow, I’m fairly confident that they will. The problem is that they are planted in the area where my butternut squash will be planted once the frost date is passed so I am not sure if they will have the heat units they need to mature before then.

This won’t turn out to be a problem however, as I never chose to plant red radish simply for how fast it grows, or how well it grows in the cool spring weather, but partly because I recently read that you can eat the radish greens. The flavour is supposed to be akin to that of spinach but slightly more bitter according to an article I read, and I wanted to try them for myself.

The article also mention that most of the nutrition in a radish comes from the leaves, which are apparently high in Calcium and Vitamin C. The Vitamin C content for the leaves is up around six times the amount in the radishes themselves. I am going to have to find some radish greens recipes, but I am excited to try them.

You can find the whole article I mentioned here, it has an interesting recipe for radish greens and links to more reading on the subject if you are looking for more information.

If you end up trying out any recipes that you have found for radish greens, or have eaten them before, leave a comment about your experiences and keep coming back for updates on how my little red radish patch turns out.

The First Signs of Spring

After a long winter, almost everyone starts looking for the first signs of spring around them as soon as they see the first bit of snow melting. Around here this often leads to disappointment, as there are generally a few early spring Chinooks which warm everything up, only to be followed by yet another dump of snow.

Some people tend to look for the more traditional signs from animals, such as the first robin of the season picking worms from their lawn, or the Canada geese flying back to the north after a long vacation south of the border. While I do look to these signs myself, I also look to my gardens for more signs of the impending spring season.

Most years, I look to the tulips to tell me that the ground has thawed, but this year we had a very large drift of snow over top of where they are planted that lasted right up until just a few days ago. Even then it wasn’t entirely gone, but the tulips didn’t bother to wait, they pushed up right through some ice to get a jump start on the season.

I did manage to snap a picture of some of the tulips coming up through the ice, but I deleted off of my phone after I thought it had uploaded, only to find out later that something had also gone wrong with the upload. I might come back and add another picture of them soon; I was going to take it today after writing this yesterday, but (of course!) we got another dump of snow last night that buried them again.

First Signs of Spring Bearded Iris

The lighting wasn’t ideal for taking pictures, but all of those little green leaves poking up are bearded irises. (Click to Enlarge)

The second sign that I look for each spring are whether or not our bearded iris bed has started to come back. As of April 10th they absolutely had started, this doesn’t really tell me anything different than the tulips, but if there comes a time when I cannot see my tulips due to the snow around this time of year, I can use it as a fall back for that sign of spring. The iris patch (for now) is in a very flat part of the yard where the snow doesn’t drift, making this one more reliable in years of heavy snow since it is one of the earlier areas of the yard to melt.

The last sign I found this year, which was completely new to me, was the chives coming up in our west-side Square Foot Garden. I had only planted them last spring, and only got a tiny amount of fresh chives from them since they were shaded by some marigolds that I had planted in the square directly south of them. I was a bit afraid to harvest too much as the plants didn’t look very healthy and really never got close to their proper size, I thought harvesting them might hurt their chances of coming back this year.

First Signs of Spring Chives

Hard to see with all of last years leaves still in there, the new chives are coming up nicely under the chicken wire cage. (Click to Enlarge)

I had no idea that the perennial herb started growing again so quickly in the spring, but I am glad that they do, as I think if I put some in a box in the greenhouse (if I can ever get some time and good weather to build it) I can get some chives extra early next year and possibly later this year for use in the kitchen.

What are the signs of spring that you look for in your yard? Maybe the first buds on the trees, or local wildlife making an appearance, or maybe something completely different, whatever it is, let everyone know in the comments section. It would be extra cool if you added in your hardiness zone or area, so that we can get a look into what happens where, but it is not required if you’re not comfortable sharing that information.

My Favourite Garden Photo: A Bearded Iris

On March 31 I saw a posting on Stephen Legaree’s Google+ feed (follow him if you haven’t already) that got me thinking. He asked what his followers’ favourite garden picture was, and posted a beautiful shot of his own garden that, quite frankly, made me a bit jealous. It also made me look back through the photos that I have taken to find the one I like more than any other.

The result may surprise you:

Iris

I thought it would be a vegetable picture too!

This is a nice flower, I liked it a lot when it bloomed, but that’s not exactly why I picked it. As with most pictures, there is a story behind this one. I will try to keep it short.

I bought this bearded iris the same year I bought the cherry tree, so that it would add some extra colour to the bed. I planted it around August I think, so it never did much the first year, but it grew a bit and looked healthy in the fall so I wasn’t worried about it for the next spring.

The next year it grew quite large, but never flowered, even though I had been giving it a dose of liquid Miracle Gro every two weeks, just like the bottle suggested. Again, it looked healthy in the fall and I looked forward to the next season to see its bloom.

Another year came and went with no blooms, but the plant was bigger once again.

The year after however, when it came back in the spring, it was a lot smaller than it had been the two years prior. I kept feeding it as I normally did, and lo and behold, it finally bloomed! Compared to all of our other irises, the bloom was huge!

The photo up there doesn’t really do it justice, so I’m adding one for reference down below.

Iris and Hand

The hand shown in that picture is mine, I also grew that myself, but it took a lot less effort. For reference, my hand is 3 1/2″ (about 9 cm) wide just below the fingers, meaning that the bloom is about 5″ (about 13 cm) across.

There were multiple flowerings on the same singular flower stock, and once it was done flowering, the plant just stayed the same size for the rest of the summer. It didn’t look like the healthiest plant ever, but it looked good enough to make it through the winter.

Or so I thought… The plant came back with only two small leaves the next year, and that was the last I saw of it until I dug around for it the next summer and found it’s shriveled up rhizome where I planted it.

At the time I had no idea what had happened to it, but looking back, I am fairly certain that it was being shaded most of the day by the neighbours lilacs and our Evan’s Cherry tree. Live and learn I guess. I still have a couple of flower beds that I will be working on this year and next year, so I think I will try to find some more of those irises, I loved the colour and wouldn’t mind a whole patch of them growing like weeds somewhere in the yard.

In the end, I think this is my favourite picture because it was one of only a few pictures I got of the first plant I really made an effort to grow, and the first failure that I actually learned from while gardening… The first of many!