Eat This

Radical Front Yard Farmer Needs a Little Coaching

418bby Susan
Showing you this photo feels oddly like unveiling a drastic new haircut, or taking off my robe at the beach. It must be all that bare ground showing, something we beauty-seekers of the gardening world avoid like slug tracks! It’s not even mulched, for crissakes!

But moving on to the task at hand, I have some questions that need answering – because I don’t know what I’m doing.  (Veggie-growing virgin here.)

WHAT I PLANTED
Here’s what I planted on about March 10 (see, I’m already a bad gardener for not being able to find where I wrote the date):  Sparkler radishes, Mescl418_3un Spicy Salad Mix, Simpson Elite Lettuce, Olympia Spinach, Tyee Spinach, Detroit Dark Red Beets, Chinese Mustard, and some Plant-a Row-for-the-Hungry brand carrots.

And yet to be planted are: Purple Top White Globe Turnips, Early Purple Vienna Kohlrabi.  And/or anything I find at the market.

Carrotradish418_2

WHAT NOW?

1. I assume they need thinning, but can the little plants I remove be moved to  the empty spots?

2. When should I mulch?  And preferably using the leafmold I have too much of.

3. I’ve been watering every other day when it’s not raining.  Sound about right?

4. I aIso bought packages of Canary Creeper Nasturtium and a mix of sweet peas.  Is there any way to use them here?

5. And most importantly, can anyone answer the question in the lower right of my diagram?  Plant ID, please – carrot or radish?

Posted by on April 19, 2008 at 3:39 am, in the category Eat This.
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17 responses to “Radical Front Yard Farmer Needs a Little Coaching”

  1. Frances says:

    The last photo is definately radish. I planted sparkler also, they are ready to eat. I don’t try and replant the thinnings, but yours are ready to thin now. Leave at leave an inch and one half between to get the largest radishes. Mulch anytime after germination. Nastursiums are great but can get too big for the little guys, put them at the edge maybe. We plant sweet peas in the fall. That seems like a lot of watering, but don’t know your conditions.

  2. Hi Susan, Congratulations on becoming our newest locavore. Nice oval pattern for your garden with the cross of stepping-stones. Very soothing. Frances is correct on the radish ID; carrots have much finer foliage. Radishes come up much faster than a lot of other veggies. Some people recommend planting a few radishes in rows with slower germinating crops to break through the surface of the soil and so you can see where things should appear. By all means interplant your nasturtiums in your garden and use their flowers and foliage as part of your edibles. Sweet peas are poisonous, so while you could plant them here, it’s probably best to put them, somewhere else. Down here in northern Florida we grow all these cool weather veggies throughout the winter and most of the lettuce and other greens have bolted. We now have our tomatoes, peppers, and squashes in the ground. Ginny

  3. El says:

    Once everything is up, it’s time to mulch! It’ll cut down on your watering pretty radically (but you knew that already). Make a plan for what will replace the lettuces, radishes and spinach: your spring gets hot quickly so that will be prime real estate quickly! May I suggest a broccoli or two, and of course tomatoes and peppers? You can replace the beets and carrots with more seeds of the same as you harvest them; just make sure the seeds get more water as the summer goes on. You can then rotate the lettuce and spinach and chard back into the garden (under the tomatoes even) when the weather begins to cool off (say, mid-Aug.) for fall salads.

    Yay Susan!

  4. Michele Owens says:

    It looks great, Susan. My first piece of advice would be, don’t worry! You’re going to get shocking amounts of food out of that pretty oval, and every vegetable gardener has to make mistakes in order to learn what works for his or her soil, climate, etc.

    I love nasturtiums and sweetpeas. The sweetpeas need to climb–and they don’t like heat. I wonder if it isn’t a tad late to plant them in the mid-Atlantic–they are the very first thing I put in my garden. The nasturtiums I like are the climbing/trailing kind–but they would get pretty overwhelming for little tiny vegetables. You can, however, grow them nicely up those too-short Lowe’s obelisks I blogged about yesterday. I think a bit of verticality would be nice in your garden.

    El is right–you need to adjust your thinking to the cool crop/warm crop distinction. Many things–radishes, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, peas, favas–do not like heat. Others–tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans– thrive on it. So don’t be afraid to yank something out that is getting miserable and rotten and bolting and replace it with something else–something like kale that can go in midsummer in order to produce in fall and into the winter. Though a lot of kitchen gardeners don’t bother with them, I adore potatoes as a crop–they can go in early, but they can also replace anything else at any point, and only take 50 days to yield something delicious.

  5. Kim says:

    The nice thing about the thinnings is that while you can’t really successfully replant them… you can eat them! Think baby carrots, a little radish snack or garnish here and there… and for god’s sake eat the entire beet, please. The greens are half the reason I grow beets–SO good sauteed in olive oil and garlic. In fact, if the beets are really tiny when I’m thinning, I just cut them in half and give them a head start in the saute pan before I add the greens.

    (Okay, now I’m drooling.)

    That oval is a really nice twist on the traditional row planting. Looks lovely!

  6. Lucinda says:

    Hi Susan,
    As one coach to another, I’ll get right to it – you need some height. How about a tall obelisk in the center? I made a cheap sturdy one out of rebar and bent curlicues on the top ends. Held together w/ a black bungee cord. Looked awesome with my peas and scarlet runner beans climbing up it! Easy to store in the off season too.

  7. Looks like you are getting all kinds of good advice for your garden. I’ll just add one tiny little plug for labeling your rows. You could use more decorative labels since your garden is “out front”. But with labels you would have known those were radishes, not carrots.

  8. SJ says:

    Dear Susan,

    Love the new garden!! Can’t wait to see more pictures as the season progresses.

  9. Ed Bruske says:

    Susan, your garden looks about right for this time of year. Organic vegetable gardeners face a choice: Lay down mulch and starts seeds indoors for transplanting. Or plant seeds outdoors and leave ground bare. You can’t mulch until the plants are up. You might be shocked how many organic vegetable farms are covered with black plastic to supress weeds. Doesn’t that sound a little contradictory? Organics and plastic?

    I try to plant my vegetables thickly, somewhat thicker than recommended on the seed packets and not in rows, so that the foliage provides its own mulch. It is a royal pain the ass trying to mulch around leaf lettuces or radishes or carrots in the kind of scheme you have. Where it does work is around bigger plants such as tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, etc.

    You need to keep the ground moist while you are waiting for seeds to germinate. In the case of carrots, this can be as long as three weeks. But you don’t need to water seedlings every day. As the plants get bigger, hold off watering till you see some signs of wilt, then give them a real deep dring, they’ll perk right up again.

    Anyway, carrot foliage is pretty tall. You might want to keep your carrots in the background. I don’t see that you’ve left room for hot weather crops–the beans, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, etc. Was that your plan?

    Unfortunately, there is some overlap where the spring crops are not done before it’s time to plant summer crops.

    I have often used a dinner fork or spoon to carefully remove seedlings where they are too thick and move them to an empty spot. Seems to work find. We hate empty spots.

  10. Ed Bruske says:

    Susan, your garden looks about right for this time of year. Organic vegetable gardeners face a choice: Lay down mulch and starts seeds indoors for transplanting. Or plant seeds outdoors and leave ground bare. You can’t mulch until the plants are up. You might be shocked how many organic vegetable farms are covered with black plastic to supress weeds. Doesn’t that sound a little contradictory? Organics and plastic?

    I try to plant my vegetables thickly, somewhat thicker than recommended on the seed packets and not in rows, so that the foliage provides its own mulch. It is a royal pain the ass trying to mulch around leaf lettuces or radishes or carrots in the kind of scheme you have. Where it does work is around bigger plants such as tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, etc.

    You need to keep the ground moist while you are waiting for seeds to germinate. In the case of carrots, this can be as long as three weeks. But you don’t need to water seedlings every day. As the plants get bigger, hold off watering till you see some signs of wilt, then give them a real deep dring, they’ll perk right up again.

    Anyway, carrot foliage is pretty tall. You might want to keep your carrots in the background. I don’t see that you’ve left room for hot weather crops–the beans, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, etc. Was that your plan?

    Unfortunately, there is some overlap where the spring crops are not done before it’s time to plant summer crops.

    I have often used a dinner fork or spoon to carefully remove seedlings where they are too thick and move them to an empty spot. Seems to work find. We hate empty spots.

  11. Plantanista says:

    Susan,

    Looks wonderful, and you’re in for such a treat when you begin to enjoy your own fresh harvest. There are few simple pleasures more satisfying than the ability to dash out and grab a piece of tender lettuce for your sandwich, or whip up a quick salad from your

    I agree with Lucinda that some height in the center from an obelisk, birdbath, or some other garden sculpture would be wonderful, and with others that mulching now that you’ve gotten pretty good germination would be ideal. You don’t need to go with wood chips. Seed-free straw also does the trick.

    A couple of suggestions as you continue your succession cropping- try to plant varieties that bring in some color in their foliage. I don’t know if that chard is ‘Bright Lights’, but if it’s not, it would be a great addition once you’ve harvested that first carrot crop. If you don’t have a red variety of Chinese Mustard, you might consider adding some when you get an open spot in the center, because the color of the foliage is so ornamental.

    As for the rows, on your next go-round, why not try planting in wider bands as you replace with succession crops, say 4″ for carrots & radishes; 6″ for chard & mustard, etc., to allow you to maintain the gorgeous line and pattern you’ve achieved, while benefiting from some of the principles of biointensive growing.

    No matter what, this is going to be so wonderful and beautiful in just a couple of weeks. I’m so jealous! I’ve been so busy with my clients’ gardens, we have not yet finished with our soil preparation and grading at my house, so I’ve missed out on the spring crops and am getting worried about whether we’ll even get warm-weather crops in the ground.

    This year’s mantra is to “plant a row for the hungry, including me!”

  12. With greens of just about all kinds, forget about rows — especially with your first plantings. Work up a nice seedbed in a block. Sow seed thickly and evenly in the block. Gently rake it in (I use a little short 4-tine cultivator). Firm the soil. (I use my foot.) The ground will soon be covered with lettuce or whatever that will crowd out most of the weeds. Use scissort to cut yourself a salad and then let it regrow for another harvest or two before it bolts.

  13. From a design standpoint, if you place an object with height smack dab in the center as was suggested you will have to widen the path to get around the object , thus removing valuable gardening real estate .
    It would be wiser to add the height in each quadrant via a simple pillar and grow cool early season climbing vegetables such as climbing sweet peas.
    If you employ height to define the elevation of your space you do not have to space the vertical element in the center of each quadrant. Consider placing your element of height within reaching distance at the the ‘+’ intersection.

    Crop rotation should be considered as well as suitable companion planting to get the most out of your space and limited growing season.
    As an example if you plant a nitrogen fixing legume (pea or bean family ) and follow it up with a heavy nitrogen feeding plant such as tomatoes , potatoes or anything in the crucifereae family ( broccoli + radishes ) there is a natural symbiotic exchange of nitrogen in the soil benefiting the heavy feeder family.

    Your horticultural questions:
    Thinning; – yes. Helps with air circulation and discourages certain types of fungal problems.
    If you thin you can also companion plant to extend your sq. footage . Google Alan Chadwick or French bio-intensive planting technique.

    Transplanting; – ‘very’ young tap root plants ( with generous soil attached ) will transplant ok , older tap root vegs don’t transplant well. As an example a radish and or a carrot is a tap root forming vegetable.

    Mulch; – not too thick of a layer when insitu germination and not too hot or green either.
    Leaf mold if nicely shredded and on its way to decomposing is fine.

    Water; – all depends on the weather and soils’ capacity to hold water . Use a soil probe ( every gardener should have one ) or a 1 inch diameter hollow tube to extract a core sample. If the core sample is bone dry the obvious is required and the converse is true.

    Sweet peas and nasturtiums can be trained to grow on simple teepee pillars made from stout willow branches or bamboo stakes that are fastened together with twine. Tres potager.

    ID- radish .

  14. Meg says:

    What a great garden! Lots of great advice from the other commenters.

    The only thing I can add is that, if you’re planning to do cucumbers or squash of any type, nasturtiums act as a nice natural squash bug repellent. We let ours snake around on the ground between all of our squash plants, and the smaller orange nasturtium flowers look pretty cool next to the bigger squash blossoms.

  15. queenie says:

    wow – splendid post and fabulous comments! I was inspired and educated. Thank you, all of you.

    We’re still under construction, so I’m not allowed to plant anything yet – but I’m going to be doing some more reading and taking the time to plan a fall garden, I think – love the oval – and be ready for next spring.

    Susan – do please keep us updated, would you? It would be so helpful to be able to ‘follow you around’ as you go through this new adventure.

  16. Hey everyone, As I already stated above, sweet peas are poisonous!! It’s best to keep them out of the edible garden. There are plenty of other choices like snow peas, sugar snaps, etc. Ginny

  17. Ali says:

    If you wind up liking chard (and who doesn’t like reliable, tasty leaves to go into their cooking?) I strongly recommend some Vulcan Red chard- I’ve only got one plant growing but it’s currently the most beautiful thing in my (Australian Autumn) veggie garden, and I’ve just planted 12 more seeds because I know it’d look beautiful planted as a drift of red & green.

    Oooh I hope you have lots of fun finding out what plants work in your area, THEN getting to the REALLY fun stuff of growing not only what works, but what is beautiful and edible at the same time. There are quite startling and versatile arrays of foliage colours and plant shapes available in the edible garden… not to mention the lovely flowers! Eggplant flowers are a lovely purple. And pole beans will flower very nearly as prettily as sweet peas.

    I third or fourth the recommendations to add some height structure to your garden and plant pole beans or snow peas to climb it.

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