Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
Late winter and early spring are the time to check out catalogs, place seed orders and start seeds. Learn more about several seed starting techniques from Sue Reinardy, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in an upcoming webinar. Sue has volunteered her time to create and deliver this webinar that will feature: deciphering catalog and seed package jargon, proper planting conditions and several techniques including the winter sown planted method that you can start now.
This webinar can be attended from any home computer or device with an internet connection, microphone and camera. Instructions to access the course will be provided a few days before the start of the class. Registration is required through WITC at courses.witc.edu Enter "Early Seed Starting" in the search box. The registration fee is $13.50, and for those 62+ it is $9.00 .
This is embarrassing, I’m a failure at growing zucchini. This most prolific plant that is the subject of jokes and interesting stories. Like the report in the 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac: “In Berlin, Germany, a 16-inch, 11-pound zucchini was mistaken for an unexploded World War II bomb.” And I’m sure you have heard the joke told in many ways but the punch line is always to lock your car so you don’t receive any unexpected gift zucchinis from generous neighbor gardeners.
Shown above: Female on left, male on right. First blossoms are usually male. The female flowers quickly develop a tiny fruit that can be fertilized manually with a small paint brush if the bees don't do their job. Male and female flowers can be eaten raw, fried or stuffed.
Summer squash (aka zucchini ) are often described as a no-fail plant. “With just a few plants you’ll have enough for friends, neighbors, and friend’s friends”, according to Grocery Gardening by Jean Ann Van Krevelen. She also advises to keep harvesting or plants will stop producing. Pick every day and pick when small when they are the most flavorful. It was the "small" part that caught my attention. The larger the size the less flavor for zucchinis. I want mine small, in fact much smaller than the ones in the markets (see female flower/fruit in above picture.)
Daniel Stone, author of The Food Explorer, describes David Fairchild’s exploration for new food plants for America at the turn of the last century (1900s). Fairchild first tasted zucchini in California. It originated somewhere in Central America and was developed as a food crop in Italy and France. Nature’s intent was for zucchini to be eaten small, before the blossom falls off; its name is Italian for ‘little squash’ according to Stone. According to Wikipedia, the fruit is typically harvested as a baby vegetable, approximately finger size, and is referred to as "baby marrows" in South Africa. That was the size I wanted to try.
Anyway, my plan was to grow a few plants in a tub this year to have a ready supply of perfectly sized (before the blossom dropped) fruits to sauté for an evening meal. I grew exactly two zucchinis and, yes, they were perfect. But then no more.
Where did I go wrong? Maybe they don’t like being constricted in a tub, maybe they need more than 6 hours of sun a day (the maximum in my woodland garden), maybe they had too much or too little water? Lot’s of questions, no answers.
Do I try again next year to have a supply of the perfect zucchini? I have more than six months to ponder whether to use space for this or a less finicky plant.
This year one of my gardening goals was to get the potager (a fancy term for my vegetable garden) in better shape. This garden has slowly evolved from a flower patch around a flag pole to a fenced in garden with raised beds and wide paths. In this blog pictures will tell the story.
Before & After: left - June 2008; right - July 2018
Above: June 2016
Here's what I did to clean things up:
I'm finding the garden much easier to work in, actually a joy to maintain and I can now find my vegetables without wading through the weeds.
The pictures below tell the rest of the story, hover over the picture to see each step taken over the last decade.
I know it doesn't look like much but the first leaf of the lilac indicates that it is time to plant beets, cole crops (broccoli, kale, cabbage, turnips, etc.), lettuce, and spinach. This is not just folklore but backed up phenology, the study of the timing of natural events. Lilacs are most commonly used for observation and to time gardening activity. I checked the soil temperature in my garden, it is 55-60 degrees. That is well in the range for these crops.
Here are some other indicators for planting:
Read more to discover the Winter Sown method of seed starting. The pictures are of a milk jug seed container cut in half, then taped shut until the weather was warm enough to expose the seedlings to the elements.
It seems each year there are lessons that nature provides if I’m paying attention and this year was no different. I gained new knowledge in five areas this year.
Activities for September
This story is about an ending, the harvest of garlic. I’ve waited nine months to extract bulbs from the soil. It’s the middle of August and my garlic is ready to be moved out of the garden to be dried. The garlic leaves are half green and half brown. The ground has dried out from the moisture received a few days ago making digging easier. I’ve received advice from a commercial garlic grower. I am ready to dig.
There is a buzz in the air. Yes, that’s a good thing. It means that our pollinators are doing their thing. But the buzz is questions being asked: Why are the tomatoes taking so long to ripen? When will the green beans be ready? I know that green beans will be ready 1-2 weeks after they flower. I don’t have a clue for the other vegetables in my garden. I just know the wait seems longer each year. For northern gardeners it can take a big chunk of the summer for a small green tomato to become lush, large, juicy and red. Why?
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* Vegetable Basics, May 3 1:00 - 3:00 pm, offered at WITC campuses in Hayward, Ladysmith, Balsam Lake, Superior, Ashland, and Rice Lake. Register with WITC at witc.edu in continuing education