Friday, July 8, 2016

Bed #4 Update

In my End Of June Garden Tour last week I showed Bed #4 after I had cleaned out much of the spring veggies but before I set out the summer and fall/winter seedlings. This past week I got a number of things planted in that bed so this is an update to show that progress.

I left the Dazzling Blue kale at the end of the bed, but it doesn't need the protection of the tunnel anymore so I moved the tunnel down the row.

The tunnel is now protecting the newly set out seedlings of Gustus Brussels Sprouts which did so well for me last year. I also added some Hestia Brussels Sprouts to the grow list. There's 4 each of both varieties. Last year I set the plants out in 3 staggered rows, but found that the middle and back rows didn't grow as well as the front row. This year I reduced the number of plants and gave each plant more space, they are in only 2 staggered rows and are 12 inches apart in each row. And we love our broccoli here so I've also put in 3 Calabrese broccoli plants.

The biggest challenge with putting such little seedlings into my garden is that the sowbugs can wipe them out very quickly. In the winter I protect the little seedlings with cloches made of gallon water bottles, the lidless bottles keep the bugs out and help to keep the seedlings warm. At this time of year the seedlings can get too hot inside a cloche so I'm trying to keep the bugs out with completely topless bottles, basically just big tubes. I've found that the sowbugs don't seem to be able to crawl up the sides of the bottles so the plants have a chance to grow large enough to withstand the bugs. I hope it works since setting small seedlings directly into the garden saves me the chore of potting up little seedlings and nurturing them until they get to be large enough to fend for themselves.

Manoa Crisphead Lettuce

Lettuce seedlings don't seem to be as vulnerable to sowbug attacks as the brassica seedlings so they just get the protection of the tunnel to thwart birds and hopefully bunnies. But I have added a layer of lightweight Agribon to the top of the tunnel to provide just a bit of shade.

And now for a bit of a progress report on my onion trials.

Bolting Ramata di Milano Onions

It seems to me that yellow onions are far more prone to bolting than red onions. Every single one of the Ramata di Milano onions is trying to bloom. And most of the Yellow Sweet Utah Spanish onions are trying to bolt.

The red onions aren't immune but far fewer of them are reaching for the sky.

Most of them are showing signs of making nice bulbs.

Zebrune Shallots
The shallots are looking good also and so far there are not bolters.

A couple of things that I forgot to show in my garden tour are my experiments with growing in fabric pots. I decided to put all of my eggplants into the pots and so far they are looking happy. And I'm also experimenting with sweet potatoes. One sweet potato that I bought at the farmer's market last year started to sprout in my cupboard so I went with it, stuck it in some water and started to collect and root sprouts. Both the eggplants and sweet potatoes are in 10 gallon pots that actually hold more than that, more like 13 or 14. They seem to be doing ok with 2 minutes a day of water.

To finish, here's a couple of shots of Anise Swallowtail caterpillars that are munching on some volunteer fennel. This umbel had 3 caterpillars in it until this morning when I found that...

one of them was clever enough to move over to a fresh bunch of flowers.

And there's more destined for Bed #4, some romaine lettuce, cauliflower, and romanesco broccoli. The lettuce will join the Manoa Crisphead lettuce that is getting going in the tunnel and the cauliflower and broccoli will be potted up and nurtured on until the onions get lifted.

Hope you enjoyed the update and have a great weekend!


  1. It's strange to think summer is almost half way over. Your onions and shallots look excellent, it's too bad you're getting such a high number of onion bolters.

    It's probably time for me to start my fall broccoli and Brussels sprouts, since you're already starting fall planting.

    1. Well, I'm not really surprised by the bolting onions, but that's why I'm growing 8 different varieties - I hope to find a few varieties that are bolt resistant. It may take a few year to find the right ones, but that's part of the fun.

  2. I want to have a go at growing onions next year, and I need to find out as much as possible about how to do it - so what is it that makes an onion bolt? I have heard it is to do with temperature fluctuations. What is your opinion? (I must also look up what "sowbugs" are...)

    1. Temperature fluctuations are supposed to cause onions to bolt, particularly if they go from cold to warm to cold weather again. That second cold snap makes them behave as if they went through winter again which gives them the signal to bloom. The problem in my climate is that I start my onions in the winter, and then we almost always have some warm weather in late winter or early spring, and then one of the peculiarities of the climate here is that May and June can be quite cool and the nights cold thus tricking the onions into thinking it is winter again. One of the most important variables to be aware of when choosing varieties of bulbing onions is day length which determines when an onion is triggered to start bulb formation. If you choose an onion that requires a different day length than what your latitude provides than it may never form a bulb. The latitude here is right between short day and long day, so some short day varieties may work here and some long day varieties may work here, so I tend to look for ones considered to be intermediate day length sensitive. So my challenge now is to find onions that are resistant to bolting.

    2. Thanks, Michelle, that's helpful. I wonder whether Tropea onions (from Italy) would work here in the cooler, gloomier UK...?

  3. I, too, am interested in onions. What I want most is to have a ready supply of "green" onions to chop up and sprinkle over stir fries and salads. I bought some onions much earlier this spring and they have done absolutely nothing but wimp over, stayed green, no new leaves, no bulbs. Wrong day length?

    Mark: wood lice

    1. It sounds like you should grow bunching onions. "Welsh" onions are one variety. Start them from seed and after a while they will start to split and multiply. You can cut the tops and leave the bunch in the ground. They will go to seed, which you can collect and sow some more. I grew them one year but found them to be susceptible to rust so I don't grow them anymore.

    2. Jane - re sowbugs / woodlice - thanks! I didn't know they were that harmful.

  4. Thanks for the tour. It is amazing what you have to do to avoid sow bug damage. I have them in the compost bin but they are not a garden problem, nor are earwigs and aphids. Now slugs and flea beetles are another matter. Strange about the yellow onions. My red onions always take longer, like 2-3 weeks, to mature, so maybe that is the difference for you in bolting.

    1. It seems like the red version of just about any veggie takes longer to grow, my red lettuces always take longer to germinate and get to be large enough to put in the garden. The red onions also size up more slowly but I don't know if that has anything to do with a propensity to bolt. A number of the red onions in the garden already have weak necks and are about ready to lift and only a few of them have bolted. The previous couple of years when I grew Superstar, Candy, and Red Candy Apple, it was only the Red Candy Apples that didn't bolt.

  5. I'm growing sweet potatoes in some different pots this year as well - a couple of cheap plastic tubs that I picked up for $6 each as well as some grow bags. I just planted them up a couple of days ago, so they have a long way to go.

    I'm glad your shallots are doing well - my Golden shallots are bolting this year - a first for me. I'm leaving them for now as only some in each clump are bolting while others are not. I'm hoping that I'll be able to salvage the non-bolters so as to at least maintain a supply to plant this fall.

    Swallowtail caterpillars are always such a welcome sight (funny how we view them so differently from cabbage worms!) I was about to pull up a volunteer dill that was in a bad spot, but there was a caterpillar happily munching, so I let it be.

  6. Always so great to see your tour posts! Those onions look crazy big! I had decided not to grow them anymore because I'm terrible at it but did it anyway. And some of mine (generic red onions) have bolted as well. I guess I should cut them off or just pull them assuming the bulb won't really grow now?

    My sweet potato experiment isn't doing so well (I have some in a fabric pot and others in ground). They have barely grown and I have a very short season and time is running out.

    Thanks for the tour!


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