Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Plantings Taking Off

We've had plenty of rain, intermittent sun, and even an occasional Nice Day in the last few weeks which has helped my spring vegetable plantings to get growing. Yesterday I uncovered the pea shoots to harvest them and decided to take some photos while I was at it and then decided to do a post about the progress of that whole bed.

Here's the snow pea shoot plants. This is a variety that is grown for the shoots and isn't allowed to mature enough to produce any peas. I did 2 sowings about 5 weeks apart, starting each lot indoors in paper pots and then planting them out when the roots started to grow through the bottoms of the pots. That's 30 or so plants in all and it would be nice to have more so next year I'll plan a larger space for them. You can see the larger plants from the first sowing on the right and smaller plants from the second sowing on the left.  I have had to keep the plants draped with lightweight row cover to keep the rodents from munching them down to the ground. I almost lost the first sowing to the munchers before I covered them up.

Here's a close-up of a few plants from the first sowing before I trimmed them yesterday. I harvested a third picking of shoots from the older plants and the first picking from the younger plants. The plants were only about 3-inches tall after I harvested the shoots. They get bushier and more productive after each harvest if you are careful to leave a bud or two on each stem. It will be interesting to see how long I can harvest from this patch and how much the plants produce as they get more mature.

I have to cover up all my pea plants to protect them from the rodents. Here's some sugar snap peas breaking out of their protective covering. I had the cover closed up until the plants started pushing up against the top. The munchers haven't figured out how to climb up and attack the plants from the top... yet.

I snipped the plants when they were young to help them branch out a bit so each plant has two or three vines climbing the trellis.

And here's a planting of Oregon Giant snow peas. I had this planting covered with water bottle cloches until yesterday. These have to go under row cover before the rodents figure out that they are there, hopefully not last night...

The unplanned, unprotected, overwintered volunteer chamomile patch. I'll be collecting fresh chamomile blossoms soon. You can see a couple of the experimental winter potato plants in the foreground, I'm not expecting much from that experiment.

The beneficial insects seem to appreciate the chamomile blossoms, perhaps I'll leave some of the hard to reach plants to bloom for them.

The cabbage patch. Some napa cabbage in the foreground. I had problems keeping my seedlings alive and ended up with 4 transplants of Charming (thanks Winnie!) and only one of Hybrid One Kilo. These are something of an experiment anyway, the best time to plant napa cabbage around here is supposed to be late summer for fall and winter harvests. Spring planted napa cabbage may bolt before it forms a proper head. We typically have a cool spring and early summer so I'm hopeful and these two varieties are good candidates for spring planting so we'll see. Beyond the napa cabbage are some young Pixie cabbage seedlings.

Here's a closeup of one of the Pixies. This variety of cabbage is supposed to make a dense 5-inch head, perfect for feeding the two of us.

Further down the bed are four Piracicaba broccoli plants. I've had a lot of success with this variety of broccoli over the last few years through all the different seasons. In spite of that success I really wanted to try a different sprouting broccoli this spring, but the seeds I ordered took a long time coming so I started the Piracicaba. Lo and behold, the Calabrese broccoli seeds showed up! The water bottles in the background are place holders for the Calabrese seedlings that are sizing up and almost ready to go into the garden.

In the photo below you can see four new Golden Chard seedlings taking off in the foreground. The year old chard plants elsewhere in the garden are still growing and not showing signs of bolting yet, but they have become a magnet for aphids, the little black ones that infest favas. The ants are farming the aphids and the plants are disgusting, they have to go, they have to make room for tomatoes pretty soon anyway.

In the rear are some twice and thrice harvested Yu Choy plants. Yu Choy, aka Edible Rape, is a very close relative of the plants that are grown to make rape seed oil which has been cleverly marketed as canola. This planting was an experiment, first to see if it would grow in winter since it is supposed to be more heat tolerant than cold tolerant. I also wanted to see how much a given number of plants would produce. This patch grew well, although it did appreciate water bottle cloches early on and I do need more plants. I think that commercial growers would harvest the entire plant for a single crop but I found that by cutting the stalks down to one or two buds that the plants regrew some smaller stalks for a second harvest and a third harvest for the most vigorous plants. There are some new shoots developing now but I don't think they will be large enough to make much of a harvest. I'm going to pull these soon and start a larger patch. More on this veggie in a future post.

I'm also trying an early planting of Florence Fennel. I love fennel but my husband is so so about it so I only grow a little bit for me.

And a clump of chives that I rescued from the gophers in a different part of the garden last year is making a big comeback this spring. I've been snipping away at this clump for weeks now and it just continues to grow.

There's lots more going on in the garden now but blogging time seems to be in short supply around here so I'll try to report on other garden activities later (not too much later I hope).


  1. Your garden is looking great! I'm trying Piracicaba for the first time this year, so it is good to hear that it has done well for you.

    what do you use your chives in? I always forget it is out in the garden and never use mine.

  2. muddytoes, I like to mince the chives and toss them with green salads, it adds a nice oniony touch without being overpowering. My plant is starting to produce flowers which are also nice to break up and scatter on top of salads - tasty and pretty also.

  3. Your blog is a veggie gardening 101 for me, Michelle. Looking at your photos and harvests, I get inspired.
    I was given chives seeds last year by a friend of mine from Germany. Do you think I can sow them now? I think it's a cool season crop. The minimum is about 80 deg F and goes to a max of 90 deg F here, so should I wait until it cools down?

  4. The garden looks really good!

  5. Your garden is really taking off nicely, the peas look so good. I wish I can make a cover like yours for the peas, our spring weather is so windy with gusts up to 70+mph it's impossible to keep any cover on the veggies (sigh).

  6. This year I'm going to find out how bad my rodent problem is. I have a few holes at the edges of the fence to shore up. Then I just have to deal with the cat problem (which probably helps with the smaller of the rodents). They leave their gifts everywhere. Luckily they don't seem to like the 2" of compost I put on the beds, so far no gifts have been left there, but without the covering they just love the empty soil.

  7. I'm growing fennel as well, and it does fantastic in San Diego. I heard today that fennel can be allelopathic towards other plants (bio-chem warfare). I was told that it can harm or slow the growing of other plants - have you heard of this?

    And for your husband who doesn't care for it, I have been eating the best fennel soup all week. It is amazing. Here is the recipe:


  8. Beautiful blog! look at all those happy starts, its making me itch to get my veg beds going. Seattle has had a late spring this year so I'm drooling over others veggie lushness. Looking forward to following your blog too, just came across it...cheers Julia

  9. Shoot. You've been busy. Everything is looking great.

  10. Wow, I forget to check in on your blog for a while and now that I am here I find you up to your eyeballs in spring plants!

    The chamomile flowers are sure cheery looking.

    Hopefully you are still winning the great Pea/Rodent battle!

  11. Lovely, lovely plants, beautiful view, and SUNSHINE. Holey moley. We're awash here still, up the coast in Oregon. BUT. I have lettuces, other leafies in a raised bed under a cloche cover, so my first desparate get-outta-town, Mr. Winter gardening urge is satisfied. Now the peas are in, also spuds, onions, Kale, dandelion and arugula. I eat LOTS of greens (I'm mostly raw, most of the time), and would give a hind leg to know the variety of peas you first mentioned - the one you eat for the sprouts, not the pods! If you have a moment, I'd dearly appreciate the info...I'll trade ya for a raw Kale Salad recipe that is very popular in my un-cooking classes :)
    I'll be checking in, this is such a NICE place to visit!


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