Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Planting with Beth, our new intern

Our intern, Beth, came over this week to help prepare some beds for Spring plantings. We started with two new beds of 50 Ozark Beauty strawberries. They are an everbearer strawberry and will produce a small crop all Summer long. I've never tried this variety and am looking forward to growing them. She planted two rows of strawberries with two alternating rows of garlic and onion which are good companion plants for strawberries because they repel insect pests, including aphids, weevils, spiders and nematodes, that tend to destroy strawberries.

Next, we worked on other strawberry beds. I started five beds of June bearers last year with runners from other plants. Unfortunately, new runners and unpicked weeds made the beds look horrible (see below photo), so we decided to pull the runners, amend the soil, and replant the entire bed.

Like the Ozark Beauty strawberry beds, these were also planted with alternating rows of garlic and onions. Georgia (our friendly cat) kept Beth company while she planted.

The garlic varieties we planted along with their descriptions are listed below:

German Extra Hardy: Very winter-hardy. Large cloves with a purplish blush, 6-8 per bulb, having when raw a strong flavor, which mellows when cooked. Easy to prepare and stores well.

Sussanville: Considered an improved selection of California Early. This popular softneck is white-skinned with some occasional pink. It's also one of the best varieties for roasting. The generous-sized cloves slip apart easily after roasting and spread effortlessly on French bread or tomato slices. The mild but true garlic flavor is a hit with all garlic fans. Good for braiding and stores for 6-9 months.

Elephant: Individual cloves of elephant garlic grow to produce large bulbs weighing 1/2 lb. or more. This garlic is more closely related to leeks, and the flavor is mild and sweet. Serve alone as a steamed vegetable with butter and bread crumbs, or bake it in the oven. Yield by weight is 8 to 1 under good conditions.

Our intern, Beth, also planted 1 lb. of red onion sets and 2 lbs. of yellow onion sets that I bought at our local feed store.

Next, she moved on to 4 beds where I attempted to overwinter some vegetables from the fall. Overwintering is supposed to give the vegetables a jump start in the Spring. In October, I planted leeks, swiss chard, lettuce, and cabbage. Then, I covered them with straw and row covers in November.

When most of the snow melted in March, I built low tunnel hoops over them to give them an additional jump start on Spring. I was pleased with some of the vegetables, such as the leeks (see above photo). It's hard to believe these beautiful leeks were quietly growing so large underneath all that snow.

The cabbage, lettuce, and swiss chard, however, didn't appear to be any larger or better than if I had started the same plants in the Spring. I don't think it was worth the effort to try overwintering these particular vegetables in this way. (Oh well, live and learn.) Since there was room for a third row in the middle of these beds, Beth planted beets, snap peas, and kohlrabi seeds. Kohlrabi, which has the taste and texture of broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is high in dietary fiber and minerals such as selenium, folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and copper. Kholrabi is a new vegetable for me this year, and I am very excited about trying it.


  1. Your leeks look fantastic--I've never tried to grow them before but have always wanted to.

    I tried overwintering spinach....so not worth it. As quickly as it grows, I'm just going to start it in the spring.

    Everything looks great. I'm jealous of folks that can get planting already. I continue to stare at the snow and curse!

  2. If you like leeks, they're a good choice for the garden b/c they're often one of the most expensive veggies in the produce aisle at your grocery store.

    We just got snow on Sun :(....