Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Crop Time

In the last couple of days, we were able to get our spring garden in the ground. In the Ozarks, we are setting about 4 weeks out from our average last frost date of April 15th. So, there are lots of crops ready to hit the ground.

I have added lettuce, spinach, onions, endive, carrots, and snow peas. And of course you can't have an Irish wife and not plant potatoes. Now is the time to get them in. In an earlier article, we mentioned we already had our corn salad planted. All of these types of crops can be sown directly into the ground. You don't even have to plant deeply for most. I do cover my onions and peas. For the next two weeks, it ought to be a good time to plant through much of the Central United States. Southern states are ahead of us, and it is a bit early yet for the northern most states.

We were blessed with a 60 degree day today, and my wife Robin was off work. So, we were able to bring all our plants outside for the day (the ones we have had growing a couple of weeks now in seed planters inside. I am sure the plants have enjoyed the sun.

So, get with it! St. Patrick's Day has come and gone. It's time to get your Celtic Ozark Spring Garden in the ground. In our next article, we will talk about broccoli and cabbage.

We'll talk again soon,

Ray Province
The Celtic Ozarkian

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Plant Some Corn Salad: Mache Verte D' Etampes

Spring has almost made it to the Ozarks! I say almost because we did have a few snow flakes yesterday. Of course, we were listening to tornado warnings the day before, so that is a sure sign that spring is on the way!

The coming of spring gets me in the gardening mood. This year I have planted a new green for us: Mache. I have never eaten it, but read about it a couple of years ago in Mother Earth News and tucked the information away in my brain. This year I decided I wanted to try some. During our early spring trip to Baker Creek seeds I found several varieties of mache seeds. I decided on the small seed variety: Mache Verte D’ Etampes.

Mache is popular in Europe and slowly becoming more available in the U.S. It is an old green commonly found growing wild in fields. It goes by several names: corn salad, lamb’s lettuce, and Rapunzel to name a few.

I planted Mache because it tolerates the cold better than other lettuce varieties. It is usually planted in the fall to grow most of the winter long. It will tolerate temps down to 5 degrees without much extra care. We do get colder than that here in the Missouri Ozarks, so I won’t have lettuce all winter long, but I will extend my season by quite a bit this fall.

When I went out to plant my mache last week, it was a wonderful warm day. I turned my garden spot over to get the soil ready and the bottom layer of the garden was still frozen. I brought the frozen bottom to the top of the garden, let it lay in the sun for a day, and then planted my little mache seeds.

God has been kind enough to give them a nice gentle rain and a few snow flakes to keep the soil moist. I can’t wait to see those little plants pop through the ground! If we like the taste of the Mache, I am going to save the seeds when it bolts this summer and plant a fall crop. Left alone, mache will self seed, but we rotate our spring, summer and fall crops in the same garden beds, so I will save the seeds for our fall crop. I might even try the large seed variety this fall too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tomatoes are On Their Way

Well the garden season is well under way in the Celtic Ozark Garden. I have officially gotten sprouting tomatoes. The tiny seeds are starting to come to life, in their little mini pots. Nestled away in the spare bedroom, they will soon be ready for even more sun. I don't want them to get too "leggy" by only getting a half a day of sun.

This year, I have started three varieties: a return visit will be made from the Illini Red, from my home state of Illinois. I have also brought back the beefsteak tomato. I didn't grow any last year, and really missed the size of this monster. There is nothing like being able to cover the whole piece of bread in one slice.

Finally, a new comer will be in my summer garden this year. I have started some Arkansas Travelers. They are always a popular tomato in the Ozarks, so I thought I would get on the band wagon this year.

In the beginning, the seeds need a good soil and water more then anything else. So, you have to make sure you keep your seeds well watered. Since my tomatoes are in the spare bedroom, I use a spray bottle to bring them water. It keeps down on the mess. It is obviously a different matter if you have a greenhouse ready to go, or some other sunny room with water near.

Once they get their first two green leaves out, I am going to want them to get more sunlight. This will help them take off. Water will still be important, but not as much. I just keep the soil moist at that point.

Regular watering will help to keep the plant healthy throughout the growing season. Too little water, then too much water, can cause the tomatoes to develop a disease called "blossom rot." Practicing the art of consistent, regular watering will get you ready to keep your tomaotes healthy all year.

The tomatoes are on their way. In just a couple of weeks, it will be time to get more going.

We'll talk again soon,

Raymond C. Province
Celtic Ozark Garden