Monday, September 22, 2014

How to grow great cabbage

The very slow, roundabout story of how to grow great cabbage.

Total time for project: approx. 15 years in 16 easy steps.

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A row of lovely blush cross cabbage after frost.

Step 1: Decide that you like cooking and that growing herbs is cheaper than buying them. 
Time - Several trips to the grocery store
Time - 5 min.
Step 3: Scroll/flip through seed catalogues with an almost guilty relish, picking reliable staples like 
Red Rock Mammoth cabbage and interesting plants like San Michele blush savoy. 
Time - Endlessly blissful hours
Step 4: Have mixed success but vow that next year will be better.
 Time - However long is required to realize that gardening is easy and hard, simple and complicated, beautiful and defeating; That it is worth every minute.

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It's bigger than her head! It's so big that it was blowing up!

Step 5: Finally crack this cabbage growing thing, at least most of the time.
Time: one wonderful season + many great meals
Step 6: Start hanging out with seed savers and amateur plant breeders. 
Time: Varies, may not happen. I recommend it though.
Time: Several snow blind months
Step 8: Remember hearing something about cabbages being outbreeders and mostly self infertile. Have a sudden idea
Time: A flash!

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Red rock mammoth quartered.

Step 9: Almost lose precious San Michele pods because someone ripped off a seeding stem. For no Reason! Consider stationing guards around the remainder. Get seeds by careful winnowing and threshing. 
Time: One feverish summer of plant joy.
Step 10: Share seeds, grow out cabbage again and again. Get wonderful reviews because this is one excellent cabbage
Time: Several years.
Step 11: Attempt to overwinter f1s. Fail. 
Time: Several snow blind months + the mud season x 2
Step 12: Take cabbage cuttings and discover they root really easily. Overwinter inside. Be surprised when they flower without vernalization. Baby. Hand pollinate. Save seeds.**
Time: More than half a year plus many delicate minutes with anthers and stigmas.

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This is kale, but I've had cabbage survive and resprout. Not only that but I've found that if I bring in the freshly dug roots of cabbage in the spring, they will sprout along the root rather like seakale thongs. 

Step 13: Grow the last of the RRMxSMf1s 
Time: Feb-April plant out
Step 14: Let the sun shine, the rain pour and the frost come. Harvest those that are starting to become slimy, split from the rain or just look a bit sad from the constant attack of earwigs, caterpillars, slugs, pill bugs and more. 
Time: May to Sept
Step 15: Eat 
Time: Whenever possible in a multitude of ways
Step 16: Stare at the little jar of f2s seeds with excitement. 
Time: Ongoing.

* I wasn't writing a garden blog back then. In fact, I only started writing a garden blog several years later after my husband (aka non-gardening partner) diplomatically suggested that perhaps I'd like to share my enthusiasm for growing things with OTHER PEOPLE (rather than with him). This post was from my original blog several years after the affliction became acute.

** I don't have a post on this because I abandoned this blog for my gardening friends on Facebook, started a new business, family and other excuses. I did share photos on some edible plant geek sites like Homegrown Goodness (an amazing resource) it seems. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Early frost in Ottawa

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And the garden
Drunk from a summer's revelry
Wakes uncertain to frost

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Prince's plume

I had a wonderful morning watching the frost add its glistening touch to the garden. Before the tender plants blackened and wilted, they were caught frozen but perfect. As the sun swept across the gardens, there was a sound like the faintest bells and the drip, drip as the ice melted.

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Sunflowers as if in mourning

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Variegated alpine strawberry

Though most of at the frost tender crop had been harvested, I covered some rare root crops that I am trying. The ground was still moist and warm so they were fine. I was intrigued by the dahlias however as frost seem to dance among them: hitting some but not others.

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Some of my oca from seed as part of a selection project - both selection for earliness and cultivation tech. Covered by one of my favourite garden tools: the under-the-bed tupperware container.

Litchi tomatoes proved once again that they were tough.

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Litchi tomato - not a tomato (though related), not a litchi is mild-frost tolerant.

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A few hours after frost flowering and fruiting.

These pumpkins look to me like revellers awaking to face the next day.

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Until next year pumpkins.