• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing cabbage in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 6 of the Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING CABBAGE

Cabbage does really well in Sitka.  It is a crop worth growing, if you have the space for it.  I find that the most important thing about growing cabbage is picking the right variety.  Loosely knit heads allow too many spaces for slugs, so choose varieties that produce tightly packed heads.  Purple varieties mature really late but the slugs don’t bother them as much as they do the green varieties. I always grow both colors.

Cabbage is a moderately heavy feeder, so prepare next year’s bed this fall by loading it up with fertilizer (or compost, seaweed and salmon carcasses) and lime (or seashell sand).  Plant seeds indoors mid-March and transplant outdoors mid-April. It’s important to transplant cabbage plants while they are still young.  If they get too old the plants will stunt and never reach their potential size.

Make a dish-shaped depression in the soil and then plant the seedling in the bottom of the depression burying it up to its first set of true leaves.  Cabbage that is planted too close together produces small heads so be sure to give them plenty of room.  I like to use about 2 foot spacing.  Mulch the entire row with seaweed (without herring eggs) to retain moisture, but be sure the seaweed touches the tender starts as little as possible to avoid rot.

Cabbage is from the brassica family and as with all brassicas it is very important to cover the entire bed with floating row cover to protect the crop from the dreaded root maggot fly.  For best results use hoops to support the row cover up off the little seedlings so they do not get flattened by the rain. Leave the cover on until at least July 15.

Slugs are the mortal enemy of cabbages.  They get in between the leaves, live in the cracks and crannies, and just riddle the heads with holes.  It is quite unpleasant to cut into a cabbage and find slugs, worms and slug poop.  GROSS!  My ducks do a good job of eliminating the slugs, but they also love to eat cabbage so during the summer I need to lock them out of the garden.  Consequently the slugs eventually move back in and take up residence in the cabbage.

The only thing that can help this situation is preventative measures:  Don’t plant cabbage next to slug habitat (brush, groundcover, piles of boards or stones), be vigilant with the slug bait/traps, try some cabbage collars or copper flashing when transplanting, when the plant is sturdy enough remove leaves that are touching the ground, and keep the bed weeded to reduce slug habitat.

Cabbage is ready to eat at any time but it is a waste to harvest a head that is the size of a softball. Try to be patient and start harvesting your first heads when they are about the size of a cantaloupe. Use a knife to cut the head at ground level leaving the root in the ground to avoid disturbing the plants nearby.  It can be removed later in the season or even next spring. The loose outer leaves are edible but not as tender and sweet as the head itself.

Do not feel that you have to harvest all the plants in the row before the weather turns cold.  Cabbage is very hearty. It can sit in the garden covered with snow and still be perfectly edible.  Of course it can’t withstand that type of weather forever, so by November if you haven’t eaten them all harvest the rest and store them in the fridge in plastic bags.  They have an amazing shelf life.

One more note, sometimes gardeners have trouble with their cabbages splitting.  General information says that this is caused by too much rain, but I have heard that too much nitrogen can also cause splitting. If you notice a head has split, harvest it right away.  Split heads start to deteriorate quickly if left in the garden.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses herbs she has grown in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

HERBS I HAVE GROWN

Herbs are a fun addition to the garden and do not take up very much space. I do not have vast experience growing herbs, but each year I learn a little more and now have an area in the garden that is set aside exclusively for herbs. When I can’t start them from seeds I buy them as starts from Penny out at Garden Ventures.

CHIVES: Every Sitka garden should have a clump or two of chives, they are so easy to grow and seem to love our climate. They look beautiful, taste delicious and attract beneficial insects for pollination. Chives are perennial so don’t bother with seeds, just get a division from a friend or neighbor. Each year your clump will get bigger and bigger and soon you will be looking for someone to share your divisions.  They grow in any type of soil but grow much larger and healthier if mulched with compost spring and fall. Chives can be harvested at any time (they taste like mild sweet onion). Simply grab a handful and cut them off three inches above the ground. The flowers are edible but the stems they grow on are extremely tough and fibrous. If your clump starts to look ragged and  turns brown, just cut the entire thing down three inches above the ground and it will start to send out tender new blades.

FRENCH SORREL:  This is the first year I have grown sorrel and I am in LOVE with it. It is a hardy perennial that multiplies quickly with deep roots and has a decidedly lemon flavor.  It can be planted by seed, but I recommend you buy a start or get a division from someone that is growing it in their yard. Sorrel can be harvested at any time, simply cut the stems to harvest the leaves. Do not take more than a third of the leaves at any one time. I use sorrel to make a pesto that is delicious with fish. Do not let the plant flower, if it does just cut the stalk off and throw it away.

OREGANO:  I have had pretty good luck with oregano.  It is an annual here with only rare instances where it survives the winter.  I usually start mine from seed indoors and transplant out in April.  There are several different varieties which range from bitter to sweet.  To harvest just cut a stem close to the ground and harvest the whole sprig.  To cook with it snip the leaves off and throw the stem away.

DILL:  Dill does okay here, and on a good year can grow quite large.  I grow two types, one for flowers and one for foliage.  Start seeds indoors in March.  The seedlings can get tall and unmanageable but once transplanted in April seem to straighten up and grow strong.  To harvest foliage just cut the ferny sprigs free from the stalk, mince and use.  It’s great with fish and cooked carrots and cheese balls look beautiful covered with it.  The flowers are used for pickling and look beautiful in flower arrangements.  If the flowers are left on the plant to go to seed it is possible they’ll reseed themselves the following spring.

STEVIA:  Stevia is a curiously strong flavored sugar substitute that does well here most years (it didn’t do well this year for me).  Fresh out of the garden it is 15 times sweeter than sugar.  It can be started from seed indoors in March and transplanted outside in April with cover.  Harvest the leaves, mince and add to fruit salad or iced tea.  It tastes stronger by the end of the summer, almost bitter, and will not survive the winter.

MINT:  Mint is EASY to grow but is invasive so plant it in a pot that is lined with landscaping cloth.  You can start it from seed, but almost every garden in Sitka has a patch of mint so get a start from a friend or neighbor.  Although it will grow in any soil it will be more lush and healthy if you feed it with compost spring and fall.  To harvest just cut a sprig loose at ground level.  Use leaves fresh or dried and discard the stems.

PARSLEY:  Parsley does well in Sitka.  I grow both the flat and the curly varieties.  Start seeds indoors in March and transplant outdoors in April using 12-18 inch spacing.  The flat parsley is an excellent green to mix in salads that tastes a lot like strong celery.  The curly parsley is even stronger and is used mostly for garnish.  I have noticed that parsley does really well in partial to full shade, especially the curly variety.  In full sun the leaves are tightly curled and in partial shade they seem to loosen up and look more lush.  To harvest just snip the outside sprigs from the plant leaving the center to continue to grow.

BASIL:  My customers always ask for basil but I have had many challenges trying to grow it.  As a rule it does not do well outside, but I have had some survive in pots right next to the house.  The red variety seemed to be the hardiest.  It is just best to grow it indoors.  Start seeds in March and be sure to keep the seedlings warm.  Transplant to bigger pots as needed.  My biggest problem has been aphids.  The soap/water treatment did not take care of the problem but I found some very effective organic insecticidal soap that I am going to use from now on — really it is the difference between having basil or not, so I am using the spray.  Wait to harvest any basil until the plant has grown at least four sets of true leaves.  Then pinch out the tops just above the second set of leaves to encourage the plants to branch out.  There is just nothing like the aroma of fresh basil.  There is a big demand for it here in Sitka so if you have the room please consider growing it to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market.

SAGE:  Sage can survive for several years before it dies.  It is another one of the herbs that can run from bitter to sweet depending on variety.  A mature sage plant is sort of like a small shrub with woody branches.  I recommend buying a start rather than planting seeds.  In the spring when you see new growth, prune the plant to remove dead branches and encourage new tender growth for harvesting.

OTHER HERBS: I have grown rosemary and thyme and they have done okay. I know there are some creeping thymes that do well here for ground cover.  I hear people talking about the chervil they are growing but I have no experience with it at all. Cilantro grows great here for about a month and then all it wants to do is bolt, bolt, bolt.  You have to cut it down many times to keep it producing and then it has mosly small leaves. Comfrey does well but be sure you want it — it gets quite large, spreads easily and has deep, deep roots so it will probably be there forever.  Someone recently gave me a horseradish start so I guess it grows here too.  I hear it has a deep invasive root system and the roots are the part of the plant used during harvest so I think I will grow it in a pot.  If you have an herb that does well here that I did not mention please let me know.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing Brussels sprouts in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Brussels sprouts grow really well in Sitka. They are a late crop that actually tastes best after the first frost. I have had good Brussels sprouts every year except this year … it just wasn’t warm enough.

Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders so amend your soil this fall with nitrogen (salmon carcasses a foot apart) and potassium (seaweed a foot deep) and lime (an inch of seashell sand). In mid-March start seeds indoors, till up the bed either with a rototiller or by hand, and then transplant the starts mid-April with 18-20 inch spacing. Make a dish-shaped depression in the soil and then dig a hole for the transplant right in the middle of the depression. Bury the starts up to their first set of true leaves.

It’s very helpful to mulch the entire bed with four inches of seaweed that has a small amount of herring eggs on it, but be sure the seaweed does not touch the starts or they could be burnt from the “hot” eggs. Cover the entire bed with floating row cover and for best results suspend the cover with hoops to keep the starts from getting beaten down from the rain. As with all brassicas, you should leave the row cover on until July 15 to protect the crop from the root maggot fly.

In the summer you will start to see little baby cabbages growing at the base of each leaf right on the stem.  These are the “sprouts.”  The sprouts closest to the ground are the biggest and the ones at the top of the plant are the smallest because they ripen from the bottom up. When the sprouts reach the size of a marble, start cutting or breaking off the leaves (by pulling down or sideways until they snap off). This allows the plant to put more energy into growing sprouts and less energy into growing leaves. The leaves are edible and can be used like kale.

Brussels sprouts are ready to eat at any stage, but it is best to wait until they are about the size the circle your fingers make when using the OK gesture. The sprouts can be harvested from the plants by pulling them sideways until they snap off.  If you see a sprout start to open up, it has gone past maturity. It is still good to eat but not as choice as a tight, tender sprout.

To prepare Brussels sprouts, just cut the stump off including the bottom sliver of the sprout.  This will allow you to peel off some of the outer leaves which are so hard they feel like you are eating plastic.  Some people like to boil or steam their sprouts and others like to roast them in the over drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper. But I’ve never heard of anyone that likes to eat them raw.

In September, it is a good idea to prune the top of the plants off to encourage them to stop growing new sprouts and to plump up the sprouts already on the stalk.   The tops are edible and can be used like kale.

Brussels sprouts are extremely hearty and can be left outside in the snow for a month or two, but keep an eye on them because after prolonged cold weather they start to deteriorate.  If you have a good cool storage area it is a good idea to cut the plants off at the ground and stack them inside.  Whenever you want sprouts for dinner just go break off the ones you want and leave the rest on the stalk for later.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing raspberries in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING RASPBERRIES

Raspberries grow in Sitka without a lot of care or fuss. I’ve had a good crop every year in my garden — even this year.

Raspberries are perennials. With proper care they should come back year after year and never need to be replanted. So choose your planting site very carefully — someplace sunny where the wind doesn’t blow its hardest and where there won’t be shading or crowding other crops.

Raspberries send out many runners underground that pop up yards away, so if you plant them right next to another crop or flower bed the runners will cause problems. The best spot would be up against a building to minimize rain and maximize heat with a wide pathway in between the raspberries and the next crop.

All red raspberry varieties do well in Sitka, but it seems that most of us got our starts from Florence Welsh (tall with large berries and handles the weather fine) or the geodetic experimental agriculture site (shorter with smaller berries and less appreciative of wet weather).

To prep the soil for raspberries loosen up the soil, remove the largest stones to a depth of about six inches and remove all salmonberry roots. The two will complete for space and the salmonberries will always win.

I think planting in rows is much preferable to planting in a patch. Weeding, mulching, pruning and harvesting are all easier when every plant is easy to see and access. Fence posts and wire can be very handy to support the plants efficiently in a row. I have been growing raspberries in a patch for years and have had good success, but am planning to move the entire patch into rows next year. Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden customers do not like to crawl through wet plants and many berries go to waste simply because they can’t be seen.

As with most berries, raspberries do not need any lime. But they do like rich soil, so I mulch with about 10 inches of seaweed every fall and aspire to add more in the spring but usually don’t get it done. Healthy raspberry leaves are green. If yours appear yellow they need more nutrition.

All of the berries will not be ready at once, so be faithful to pick them every three days — RAIN OR SHINE. You don’t want to waste a single berry, and they deteriorate when wet with rain for even a couple of days. Excessive rain will cause berries to become crumbly. This is annoying when you are picking, but they still taste delicious so don’t throw them away. I have noticed that the first picking is the worst and they seem to hold together better as the season progresses.

You must understand how raspberries grow to know how to prune them properly.   First-year canes do not produce berries. Prune the tops off if they grow taller then five feet to keep them from falling over (this does not hurt the plant and will encourage it to branch out more). When winter comes, the canes will look dead but they are very much alive and will sprout leaves the next spring.

Second-year canes will produce berries.  During that same year the plant also will send out more first-year canes. It is very important to protect these first-year canes from damage to ensure a harvest every year. The canes die during their second winter and need to be pruned off the plant that fall or the next spring when you can tell dead ones from live ones easily. Eventually the plant will die, but they are always sending out shoots underground and new plants replace the old ones.

Raspberry plants always send up more shoots than you want, so be vigilant about pulling them up or your whole yard will become a raspberry patch. Pulled shoots can be planted and will take root easily, so be generous and share the love with your friends and neighbors.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing radishes in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING RADISHES

All of the gardening books I have read say that growing radishes is SO easy, but I really have a hard time growing a good decent radish.

Every year I try, and every year I get a few good ones and a whole lot of bad ones — skinny tough roots with nice tops that immediately bolt. This year I actually grew some pretty decent radishes so I think I’m starting to get it figured out a little. I refuse to give up.

First of all, radishes are a root crop, so they don’t like a lot of fertilizer. In fact, the books pretty much say to just throw the seeds in any old dirt and they will grow. Nitrogen produces large luscious tops, not large plump roots, so this fall don’t put any nitrogen-rich material in the bed where you plan to plant radishes next year. Instead, bulk up the bed with sand and loose organic material such as beach/forest mulch (not much seaweed) and leaves.

Next spring, either mix some bonemeal into the soil or gather some starfish to bury about four inches below the surface and then plant your seeds directly on top of the bed. I recommend buying seeds for varieties that are shaped like carrots rather than the typical round ones because they produce more poundage per square foot. If you are using a seeder the seeds will be buried, but if you broadcast the seeds by hand you will need to rake them in a little or sprinkle some dirt over the top.

Be sure not to get the seeds too close together. I am sure this is one of my biggest problems. Radishes that are too close together just shoot up and bolt. Proper spacing is VERY important. About three inches of spacing is about right. You can hand plant each seed, but that is very, very tedious. That’s why I purchased a seeder. I am still learning how to use it, but I think it will be helpful to achieve proper spacing.

Radishes need cool weather to germinate and grow and we have that, but even though our winters are mild it doesn’t work to plant outdoors in February (believe me, I’ve tried). Some years you can plant in March, but mid-April is probably the best time to plant.

Be sure to cover the bed with floating row cover to protect the seedlings from frost and the dreaded root maggot flies. Radishes are from the brassica family and root maggot flies love them. It can be helpful if you do not grow radishes (or any other brassicas) in the same spot each year.

It is important to keep the surface of the bed damp while you are waiting for the seeds to germinate, and on dry days it may be necessary to water the bed more than once. After germination it is very important to water evenly. Large fluctuations in watering can cause radishes to split, bolt or get pithy.

If you have tried everything and your radishes still bolt, pull them up and throw them in the compost, but leave a few of them in the ground. They will flower and then grow seed pods. The green, tender pods can be eaten whole and they taste just like radishes.

One variety called the “Rat Tail Radish” (raphanus sativus) is grown specifically for its pods. It grows about six feet tall and produces hundreds of pods. The advantage of growing this variety is that it matures in the summer and likes warm weather, but unlike other varieties it needs rich, fertilized soil. I like to plant both types for radish taste all season long.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing turnips in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING TURNIPS

I have been growing turnips the last couple of years for the greens, but have never had any luck growing them for the bulbs.

This year I was able to actually harvest some large bulbs and they were really delicious. They taste like a cross between a kohlrabi and a radish. It turns out that they are relatively easy to grow, so from now on I am going to make more room in my garden for turnips.

To prep the bed for growing turnips be sure not over-fertilize with nitrogen. Turnips are a root crop and root crops like loose soil amended with organic material, sand, bonemeal and plenty of lime (seashell sand) to keep them from being bitter. Plant the seeds directly outside in the soil with about 4-inch spacing.

If you want a lot of tops you can plant the seeds closer, and then when they are big enough to eat you can simply thin the crop by pulling every other plant completely out of the ground. After planting the seeds be sure to cover the entire area with row cover. All of the local pests seem to like turnips and it is not uncommon to pull one and find it riddled with holes and bite marks. Row cover and crop rotation can really help minimize pest damage.

At harvest time most of the turnips bulbs will be pushing their tops up out of the soil, so you will be able to see how big they are. Pull them when they still tender — about 3 inches in diameter. If they get too large they can become quite woody and fibrous. You can eat them raw or cooked and it is not necessary to peel them. The greens are ready to eat at any time and you can pull the entire plants or clip off the leaves leaving the roots to grow more leaves for a later harvest.

One of the reasons I am enthused about growing more turnips next year is because they are ready to harvest so early in the season, when there are mostly just greens to eat and no poundage crops. I had always considered them a fall crop, so I was surprised to have them mature so early. It might even be possible to sow multiple plantings each season.

Although it sounds so easy to grow turnips it took a lot of years for me to be successful at it. I think the biggest mistakes I made in the past were planting them too close together and adding too much nitrogen. If there is one thing I’ve learned about gardening in Sitka it’s to never give up. Keep trying and eventually you will probably succeed.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing rhubarb in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING RHUBARB

Rhubarb grows so well here that I’m surprised it’s not indigenous. I have always been amazed at how many customers come out to the Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden just to pick it because I figured everyone had a clump growing behind their house.

Rhubarb is a vegetable but it is used most often like a fruit in pies and desserts. It grows out of a tuberous root system. The stalks are very tart, tasting a lot like lemon, and the leaves are poisonous but can be composted.

The best way to started growing it is to get a clump of roots from another Sitka gardener any time after May 15 but before Sept. 15. Penny Brown out at Garden Ventures has sold rhubarb seeds in the past and has had good reports from customers who have planted them, but I have no experience with rhubarb seeds.

The best growing conditions for a rhubarb patch in Sitka are partial shade, acidic soil, plenty of moisture, and a thick layer of mulch and nitrogen-rich food spring and fall. If at any point a flower stalk comes up out of the center of the plant it should be removed to ensure that the plant uses all of its energy to grow edible stalks. The flower is totally useless unless you are planning to save seeds. Just use a knife and cut it off close to the base of the plant.

It would be best not to harvest any stalks from your patch the first year and then in the following years harvest as much as you like as long as you don’t take more than two-thirds of the stalks from each clump each time you pick. It’s good to leave at least one or two stalks on the plant at the end of the season to die naturally to ensure that the plant is photosynthesizing up until the very end.

Rhubarb is “ripe” at any size. It does not change in flavor as it matures, but large, old stalks can get “pithy” or tough if they aren’t utilized and should be removed and thrown away. If most of your stalks are pithy you are not watering your patch enough. DO NOT cut your stalks from the plant when harvesting. It’s best to pull them loose by twisting them while pulling down and out with one hand and supporting the rest of the plant with the other. New plants could pull completely out of the ground and clumps of stalks can come out all together if you are not careful.

The entire stalk can be chopped up for use — even the very bottom tip that is white is good. Rhubarb holds up really well in the freezer. Just measure out  enough for a pie and put it in a labeled Zip-Lock bag and throw it in the freezer. No blanching is necessary. When it’s thawed out it will be kind of freezer burnt and soggy looking, but it cooks up just beautifully.

Rhubarb grows well in a pot but after a few years the root system will grow too large for the pot and the plant will become less and less productive. It’s also more susceptible during freezing weather so it’s best to grow it right in the ground.

About every five years or so it is beneficial to divide the plant. Shove a space right down through the middle of the clump and cut it into four pieces. The tubers can be very large and go very deep but you can be quite aggressive while dividing. Rhubarb is very hardy and even a portion of a tuber can survive just fine.

Replant some of the clumps for yourself but be sure to share the others with your neighbors  It’s good to spread the love!

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams says it’s time to start planning for garlic in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 3 of the Wednesday, July 25, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

IT’S TIME TO START PLANNING FOR GARLIC

Garlic is the most rewarding thing I’ve grown yet in my garden.  It is amazingly delicious, easy to plant and does so well here in Sitka.

Even though it’s too early to plant garlic right now, the stores are starting to sell it and the catalogs are arriving in the mail. It’s good to buy now because garlic is a hot seller and everyone is usually sold out by October when you need it. Do not buy garlic from the grocery store to plant even though it is cheaper. It won’t do as well as stock bought from a nursery. In fact, many farmers spray the garlic with something to keep it from sprouting during storage.

Our local garden stores sell garlic and Penny Brown at Garden Ventures has been keeping track of the local gardener’s favorite varieties so be sure to talk to her. All garlic varieties fall under two basic categories — hard neck and soft neck.

Soft neck plants have soft stalks at harvest time that can be braided together. The cloves run on the smaller, milder side but have a long shelf life. Most of the garlic you see on the grocery store shelves is soft neck.

Hard neck plants have very rigid stalks.  The cloves run on the larger, more flavorful side but do not have a long shelf life. Hard neck garlic plants send a flower stalk out of the top of the plant in July that needs to be cut off so that all of the energy goes into producing large cloves. This flower stalk is called a “scape” and it’s not only edible, it’s delicious. Just eat it raw or chop it up and throw it into your stir fry.

All of the information I’ve gathered says that hard neck garlic is the best choice for Sitka.

The best time to plant garlic is in the fall. Some stores sell it in time for a spring planting and it works, but your garlic won’t reach its full potential. Preparation for the garlic bed should take place this September.

Remove all the existing plants in the bed, and till or loosen up the soil with a trowel.  Amend with fertilizer (or seaweed and compost), lime (or seashell sand) and bonemeal (or starfish). Be sure the bed has good drainage — if the garlic sits in a puddle all winter it will rot. Planting should take place mid-October.  Separate all the cloves of your garlic, being sure NOT to remove the individual papery covering over each clove. If the covering is accidentally removed plant the clove anyways.

Plant each clove about 2 inches deep and about 9 inches apart and then mulch the entire bed with a thick layer of seaweed to protect it from the winter weather. Mark your bed clearly so you remember where they are planted next year.

Next spring, green blades will start to appear that look like saw grass. Each blade indicates one clove. Fertilize or mulch with seaweed or compost when all the garlic has emerged. Harvest the scapes in July while they are tender before the flower develops.

During July the blades will start to turn brown from the bottom up.  Although garlic is edible at any stage, usually by early August half of the blades have turned brown and it is time to harvest. If you harvest too early it won’t store well and if you harvest too late the cloves will separate from the stalk and the flavor diminishes slightly.  Use a trowel to harvest instead of pulling the stalk to ensure that the garlic stays intact.  For storage just wash off the dirt, cut off the stalk to about an inch and let the garlic dry completely using a fan.

Save your largest cloves to plant for next season, eat the rest of the large cloves and save any tiny or misshapen cloves to plant an inch or two apart in a separate bed to use in the spring as “garlic greens.”  Garlic greens look like green onions but taste like garlic.  If you save and replant your own stock each year the garlic plants will get more adapted to our climate and will get better and better.

Garlic is so delicious, you just HAVE to try it.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing fennel in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, July 18, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING FENNEL

I have to admit that up until about two years ago I didn’t even know what fennel was.  Florence Welsh recommended that I grow it because it does so well here in Sitka and is truly delicious. I am so glad I gave it a try.

Fennel has a round, slightly oval-shaped bulb that grows above the ground and looks sort of like a fat, short celery, while the tops look a lot like dill. If you eat fennel raw it tastes strongly of anise (licorice), but when cooked the flavor changes to this amazing mellow flavor I can’t even describe.

In preparation for growing fennel I like to amend the bed with seaweed in the fall and again in the spring. If the spring seaweed has a sprinkling of herring roe on it, it’s fine because fennel is a fairly heavy feeder. I start my seeds indoors mid-March and transplant them outside mid-April.

When transplanting the floppy, fragile starts, be sure to make a dish-shaped depression in the soil and then dig a hole in the center of the depression. Bury the starts deep enough in the hole to ensure that they are firmly supported with dirt and plant them with about 10-12 inch spacing. After they recover from transplant shock and begin to grow they will straighten out and become more stout.

It is a really good idea to mulch around each start with seaweed to keep the weeds down, feed the starts and retain moisture.  Cover the starts with row cover and for best results use hoop supports that will hold the cover up 2-3 feet off the ground.  Fennel has beautiful bushy foliage that can get quite tall and if the cover is too low it will break the foliage and make the plants very unattractive.

Fennel is ready to eat anytime you want to, but it is best to wait until it has reached maturity for maximum size. You’ve probably noticed the fennel in the grocery store produce aisle … the large, round, plump bulbs are white and the stems of the foliage are stout. My fennel never looks like that. The bulbs are smaller, more flat — almost disc-shaped — and greener in color.  The foliage and stems are more dainty and tender.

Sometimes a few plants will “bolt” and just send up a series of branches getting really tall. They are edible, but don’t amount to much. Adequate spacing usually minimizes bolting.

Because fennel matures so early you can successfully raise two plantings. You probably can plan to be able to start your first harvest mid to late July. If you take a sharp knife and cut the bulb loose leaving the root in the ground it is possible that the root will sprout up baby fennel for a second harvest.

But it is a more sure thing to start some more fennel seeds indoors around June 1, pull mature plants out of the ground root and all, amend the empty spot with compost and transplant new starts in the same spot. If you don’t have room indoors for starting more seeds just pop a new seed into the empty spots as you harvest mature plants.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses weeding and feeding in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, July 11, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

WEED AND FEED

I consider July 15 to be the middle of the gardening season. By this time a large portion of the nutrients you added to your beds in the spring have either been used up or washed away by the rain, and the weeds are threatening to take over the garden. Weeds rob what little nutrients are left in your soil, block sunlight and harbor mold and mildew. It can really make a difference in the health and harvest of your garden if you invest some time in weeding and amending the soil at this time.

If you tilled your garden this spring like I did, and did not mulch with seaweed, you were probably amazed at the carpet of weeds that sprouted up. It is very important to take the time to sit down and pull every single one of them before they produce seeds. If you did till and mulch with seaweed, you probably saw a pronounced decrease in the amount of weeds in your garden.

Most weeds really aren’t a problem if you are diligent to pull them before they produce seed and are sure to get all the roots because once they are pulled they are gone forever. The only two weeds I have had real trouble with are horsetail and Japanese knotweed. These two weeds have invasive root systems that are just about impossible to eradicate. If you break them off, the broken end just grows multiple sprouts. A small piece laying on the ground can even take root.

Someone once told me that the best defense is a good offense … that these weeds like acidic, poor soil, so the first step is to add lime to the soil and make it as nutritious as possible. It helped, but was not a complete solution. I noticed that where I till they are drastically reduced. I think it is because the roots get chopped up into bits, the bits sprout, I pull on the sprouts and the entire bits come up.

The places were I can’t till or really work it over with a trowel (like the asparagus bed) have become infested with horsetail. This year I mulched the asparagus bed heavily with beach seaweed/leaf mulch and I noticed that the horsetail roots are starting to spread through the loose mulch. When I pulled on them I was able to pull up long root sections. In fact, the other weeds that were growing in the beach mulch pulled up easily. I plan on gathering lots of beach mulch this fall.

If you have a traditional bottomless box bed that has a lot of horsetail in it, it is probably coming up from the ground below.  You can’t till in the box so the only way to get rid of it is to completely empty the bed, lay two layers of landscaping cloth in the bottom and up around the OUTSIDE of the box a few inches and staple it to the sides of the box. Then sift the dirt to remove every scrap of root, and start over. If anyone reading this has a magic bullet for these weeds please let me know.

To add nutrients to your beds either fertilize with commercial fertilizer, spread cured compost an inch thick over every bed or mulch with seaweed. Even with this awful weather we’ve been having I think you will see a definite difference in the health of your garden if you weed and feed.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/