Dear <<First Name>>,
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a chance to tidy up outside before the snowfall this morning. A few things came to mind in the last few days as we cleaned out rain barrels, pulled out the last carrots (still rather mucky from the last rain/snow), and put away containers.
Fennel Bulbs - Happy Crop Despite the Wild Weather
After a rather long list of poor crops due to crazy weather, an unexpected winner was Selma Fino Bulb Fennel. I purchased the seeds from West Coast Seeds and planted a handful of seeds in potting mix on March 23. I placed the seedlings under fluorescent lights until hardening off time and eventually they went out into my community garden bed May 26. I also seeded some fennel seeds between the transplants for a later crop. In early August, we had some very large bulbs to harvest.
The seeds I had planted in May developed into nice seedlings which I transplanted into an empty bed on June 21. The plants did really well and produced beautiful, tasty bulbs that kept well into September in the garden. I used the bulbs fresh in salads, lightly sautéed in omelettes, and I dried many of the fronds for later use in soups. What a great plant to grow! My fennel did not produce seeds, but fennel seeds chewed or made into tea soothes the belly after a large Thanksgiving dinner.
Update on Sweet Potatoes and Groundnut
I know you’ve been waiting for it... here is my update on Sweet Potatoes and Groundnut. I had some small Georgia Jet sweet potatoes left over from 2017 and they started sprouting in January 2018 (see blog).
I decided to try the plants both in a very large container on our deck, and some in the rich clay soil in my community garden.
What a difference! I had “huge” sweet potatoes in the containers (see tubers next to watering can). Two plants yielded about 8 potatoes, so it’s certainly not a bumper crop. The sweet potatoes in the ground were skinny and small. I am not going to spend any more time and energy on that approach. For the fun of it, I will grow sweet potato again in a large container. At the very least, it’s a pretty foliage plant on the deck.
As for Groundnut, a plant used by Native American groups and early settlers, I also decided to grow tubers in large containers because the groundnut roots seem rather invasive. When I cleaned out the containers a few days ago, I came up almost empty handed – less than a dozen small “nuts” was all I got from two containers. So we’ll enjoy them and then stick to more productive food.
Holy Basil - A Feel Good Herb
Another lovely plant I decided to grow again this year was Holy Basil (aka Tulsi Tea). I picked up the seeds at Seedy Sunday in 2015 from Harmonic Herbs, and it seems they were still viable. I believe I started a few seeds indoors. The plants didn’t mind late afternoon shade and made it through some dry periods in front of my scarlet runner beans (see photo, to the right of tangerine gem marigolds). The leaves are dried to make a calming herbal tea that can be used alone or mixed with other flavours. I was first introduced to the tea when I picked up a package of Tulsi Tea in the grocery store. I enjoyed reading the story about Organic India, a company that has a vision to create a sustainable livelihood for impoverished farmers in northern India, employing organic practices that replenish the soil and restore a healthy environment.
Managing Rain Barrel Overflow
Here is a quick note about about rain barrels. If you scored one of the Rona/Epcor rain barrels a couple of years ago, you hopefully also received the overflow hose and clamp. I found the overflow hose was too short and it cracked after a couple of seasons.
I was able to find a 1 1/4 inch rubber fitting with clamps (I believe at Home Depot) that allows me to attach a longer piece of sump pump discharge hose, to make sure the water is directed into a perennial bed and does not pool near the foundation.
Cuttings to Extend the Season
With the growing season finished, it’s hard for us gardeners to let go entirely. A few days ago, I could not help myself taking a few cuttings from my “buggy” mint, lemon balm, basil and even from my nasturtium plant I had taken inside after the first snowfall. All of these plants had some mottled, yellowish leaves and with a good magnifying glass you can usually find some spider mites on the underside of sickly leaves.
Bringing plants indoors is a bit risky, though healthy tropical houseplants seem to be unaffected by spider mites or aphids. It sure is fun to place a basil cutting in a glass of water and wait for roots, then watching the plant grow as clone in potting mix. We’ll see how the other cuttings work out... nothing ventured, nothing gained.