Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Thursday, December 01, 2011 4:36 PM
Some gardeners like to stretch the season out as long as possible,
yours truly among them.
When a friend posted on Facebook that she loves winter but regrets
the lack of fresh produce, I had to respond. We just froze the last
of the sweet peppers, are harvesting fresh tomatoes, and have several
crops still growing in the garden: kale, brussel sprouts, lettuce,
broccoli sideshoots, cabbage resprouts and leeks.
Admittedly, the peppers were harvested several weeks ago, when the
first frost loomed, but stored remarkably well on our unheated back
porch. Some even continued ripening, and those we pulled out and
roasted this week for a delicious treat.
And the tomatoes are in a homemade hotbed with added heat. Last
year we kept them going until late December, when temperatures were
forecast to go down and stay down. We ate fresh tomatoes for
The other vegies can take freezing temperatures. Some, including
kale and leeks, should winter over. Both will go to seed in the
spring, however, so should be harvested before that. Or, in the case
of kale, may be left as a near-perennial, as once they go to seed
they usually sprout again from the base of the plant, depending on
With a little protection, lettuce, collards and spinach will
winter as well; I've kept them going all winter under row covers or
inside hay hotbeds in previous years.
The latter is simply an area planted with greens in August,
surrounded by hay or straw bales, and covered with plastic. The greens
seem to grow longer than under row covers, with harvests into
December and starting again in February. Greens under row covers stay
alive, but don't grow as much as early, in my experience.
As for harvested vegetables, many store well without being dried,
canned or frozen. One fall we grew oodles of Chinese cabbage which we
eventually harvested and kept under a tarp on a concrete porch. It
was close enough to the house to never quite freeze, and we made lots
of stir fry that winter.
Or you can dig storage pits for carrots, cabbage and other vegies,
surrounding them with leaves or burying them in small garbage cans.
If you have lots of produce, experiment; you may be surprised.
Meanwhile, even if you no longer have cultivated crops in your
garden, you may find nutritious edibles there and elsewhere. Wild
mustard or cress greens, dandelions, chickweed and clover are
abundant right now, and not only are edible, but far more nutritious
than lettuce, spinach and other cultivated crops.
Last Updated on Friday, December 02, 2011 9:44 AM
Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Friday, June 10, 2011 4:34 PM
Just weeks ago, many gardens were puddles of standing water. You
could hear frogs croaking from what, last August in mid-drought,
would have been the most unlikely places.
But now, even the soggiest gardens should be dry enough to till
and plant, thanks to record heat and little rain since late May.
If the rainy season discouraged you from starting a late garden
this year, reconsider. You still have plenty of time to sow and plant
vegetables, even if you have to water them from time to time. Here
are some practices that have worked for me!
Tomatoes and pepper plants can be planted deeper than they are
growing in their pots, and will root up the stem. We set out tall
plants of each this year, and put about half the stem into the
ground, after removing the lowest leaves and branches. With deeper
roots, the plants are more drought resistant. Most years I also put
foil collars around transplants to ward off cut worms. Make these
about an inch wide and tuck them snugly around the plant at the soil
Sweet corn can be planted into July. If you know you are going to
plant the corn but not for a few days, you can pre-sprout it. Soak
overnight in water, then drain. Rinse the seeds morning and evening,
keeping them in a warm place in a container with a loose lid, such as
a pint jar, until planting. Be sure to water the new planting to
ensure the seeds contact the soil and continue growing.
I have planted full-season sweet corn, Silver Queen, as late as
July 15 and had a fair harvest, though the ears were smaller than
midsummer ripening corn. Or you can plant a shorter-maturing variety
for late corn. To discourage birds from ruining near-ripe ears, you
can place paper bags over the ends of the ears.
Green beans also can be pre-sprouted, but are a little more
fragile than corn sprouts. Again, water the sprouts when you plant
them. I usually water them in the row before covering the sprouts
with dirt, then water the top as well. Most varieties take only
50-some days to harvest .
Potatoes can still be planted as well, but are likely to have more
insect infestations than early plantings. As the plants grow, you can
hill up dirt around them for a better crop.
Lettuce, carrots, beets and other fine-seeded veggies are hard to
get going once the weather turns dry. You can plant and water them,
then place a wide board over the row until they sprout. Straw works,
too, but be sure to remove either cover once the plants are
sprouting. Some seeds, such as lettuce, may not germinate in hot
temperatures, but if you really want to grow them, you can start them
in a cool spot inside, such as the basement, and transplant them out
Some brassica are easier to grow as transplants, including
broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Like peas, they do better in
cooler weather, but with ample water will produce in hotter
temperatures. Cauliflower is more temperamental. Though stronger
flavored than when grown in spring and fall, kale and collards
usually will germinate from seed, even in summer.
As for peas, snap or shell, unless you got them in before the
monsoons, you'd best wait till late summer to try for a fall crop,
depending on what the weather is doing by then!
Lots of folks find their gardens feeding deer, rabbits and other
critters. I've found putting blood meal around cabbage and sweet
potato transplants and emerging green beans limits the damage rabbits
do, and have heard it works with deer as well. As for squirrels and
groundhogs, I've little advice beyond fences, dogs and trapping.
Check state law before doing the last, or hire a pest removal
Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Friday, May 20, 2011 2:40 PM
With gardens saturated, now is the time to turn your attention elsewhere.
Take a walk in the woods.
Even in a light rain, you'll find your spirit refreshed by the beauty of lush green foliage and abundant flowers. Just dress for the occasion with slickers and boots.
Mother's Day, the spouse and I visited Versailles State Park. I was itching to get out and look for morels after being busy with my annual plant sale the past two weekends.
We didn't find any, but oh! what we did find was beauty.
Dark purple larkspur stood like sentinels amidst clumps of violet and even white phlox, pinky-purple cranesbill geraniums, and the occasional brilliant red of fire pinks.
A few small trilliums still bloomed here and there, and the rounded green foliage of bloodroot and twinleaf gleamed with diamond rain drops.
In one hilly area, we saw a patch of shooting stars, their tall stalks of white and some pale pink nodding flowers rising above circles of basal leaves.
One deep pink-, almost purple-flowering plant stood out, and nearby was an alumroot, a wild relative of coral bells. Both attract hummingbirds, although the alumroot's blooms are green rather than pink or red.
Most of the coral bells or heuchera sold by garden nurseries were developed from native American species, by the way.
On another hillside, spiderwort blossomed in shades of blue and pink: one plant a brilliant sea blue, another violet blue, others ranging into near-pink.
In a low-lying area, we found great masses of light blue wild hyacinth, or canassia, another native plant.
According to Wikipedia, canassia bulbs were eaten by Native Americans, and helped the Lewis and Clark expedition survive. But a similar, white-flowering bulb grows in the same areas.
Called Deathcamas, it is toxic, so don't rush out to harvest wild bulbs without being absolutely sure of their identity!
At home, tall foxgloves are blooming along one border of my shady wildflower garden under an ancient white dogwood tree. Most of the early flowers are done, but the green dragons are blooming as well as their relative, the jack-in-the-pulpit. Both later will get clumps of bright red berries. The twayblade, one of Indiana's many orchids, is up but not yet blooming amidst the last of the white violets.
The last to bloom in that patch probably will be the cardinal flower, the lone survivor of seeds I started a few years ago. It, too, is a bright red, and while it prefers the water's edge seems to be coping just fine in my backyard.
And, speaking of red, we found elegant stinkhorn along the edge of the vegetable garden, growing from under newspaper mulch left from last year.
About the width of a finger, the hollow reddish tubes are several inches long and, true to their name, have a strong fungus smell. Unfortunately, unlike morels, they are not edible.
The vegetable garden itself remains drenched, although the onions, cabbage, broccoli and peppers we planted one night last week look good.
And my greens are almost ready to pick – one more week, I think, then I'll have fresh lettuce, spinach and beet greens! If it doesn't stop raining, I may have to lay a board down to spread my weight as I pick them, though.
This weekend I plan to plant sweet corn, cucumbers and squash in peat pots, in hopes I will be able to put them in the ground soon after they sprout.
It IS supposed to warm back up, and perhaps the 30-40 percent chances of rain over the next few days won't amount to any precipitation.
We can always hope. If we weren't optimistic, we wouldn't be gardeners!
Last Updated on Monday, March 26, 2012 7:47 PM
Written by Chandra L. Mattingly
Monday, May 02, 2011 8:33 AM
If you don't have morals, you can still have morels!
But I guess if you have morals, you wouldn't go searching for morels in someone's woods without permission.
Morels, for those of you who haven't gone mushroom hunting, are
sponge-like edible fungi which are easy to identify, delicious, and
overwhelmingly abundant this spring, possibly due to April's
record-breaking rainfall. You can find them in healthy woodlands, but
also sometimes in a backyard where an apple tree has been cut down.
If you've never gathered them before, double-check what you've
found with someone who knows morels before eating them. But they are one
of a few fungi varieties which are hard to confuse with anything else.
We soak them in saltwater for about a half hour to rid them of
insects, then wash them and saute them gently in butter. They are
delectable, to say the least.
If you have not had them before, however, you should eat only a
small portion the first time you fix them as some people are sensitive
to various fungi.
While the rain has been good for morel production, it has not
been conducive to gardening. DO NOT try to work your ground when it's
wet; it can change the soil structure and diminish its ability to
support your plants. Walking on wet ground also is not a good idea as it
compacts the soil. I know it is hard, but try to be patient and wait
for dryer times.
Besides, both ground and air temperatures are a little cool yet
for most annual flowers and warm-weather crops. Sometimes the first or
second week of May is a good time to plant tomatoes, beans, corn and
squash, but not this year.
We're probably looking at mid-May, assuming it warms and dries up by then.
Peppers and sweet potato plants like it even warmer, so figure on
mid to late May for them. If it dries up enough, you can lay black
plastic over an area to help warm the soil for any of the heat lovers.
This is one year folks with raised beds will be glad they have
gone that route for gardening, as raised beds drain and dry out better.
Plus, never being walked on, one can weed and harvest without worrying
about compacting the soil.
My gardening has been mostly indoors this year, as I've been
starting and transplanting seedlings for my plant sale this week. In
addition to perennial flowers and herbs, I have young trees, forsythia
and other shrubs, and native wildflowers, as well as a few houseplants,
including eucalyptus. I've kept one lemon eucalyptus going for maybe 10
years since I started it from seed, and enjoy sharing the leaves and
sending them in get-well cards.
Of course, you can also do that with lavender and other herbs, and this year I've got loads of lavender!
The sale starts Thursday, May 5, and will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
through Saturday, May 7, and again Saturday, May 14, at 109 N. High St.
(Ind. 56) in Rising Sun. Hope to see you there!