We learned a lot from the Fall Greens Trial this year, including:
- Mice like collard greens seedlings even more than they like yellow tomatoes
- The humans around here do not like ‘Runway’ arugula, no matter how well it sprouts and grows
- ‘Osaka Purple’ mustard is quite possibly the stuff wasabi is made from and should not be chomped in the garden by the unsuspecting. (How bad can drinking out of the hose really be? It was an emergency!)
Starting on August 12th, we tried two varieties each of chard, mustard, arugula, collards and kale. For each variety, we started half the seeds in pots and the other half were direct seeded. Direct seeded ‘Italian’ arugula was the first to sprout, a full 24 hours ahead of the same variety in a six-pack and both the direct seeded and the potted ‘Runway’. During the course of the trail we have come to believe that seeding fall arugula in Northern California is not a challenging task, no matter where you put it. ;-)
In our trials, ‘Improved Dwarf Siberian’ kale beat out the ‘Nero di Toscana’ which barely sprouted at all in the heat. The thing is that I like the lacinato kale, so I am trying ‘Nero di Toscana’ again right now, half a flat of it, in the cooler temperatures. The ‘Mangold Witerbi’ chard has done slightly better than ‘Orange Fantasia’ but both are strong and delicious now. The spoon mustard seed was disturbed in its six-pack and didn’t sprout at all in the ground, but the ‘Osaka Purple’ came up with nice wide leaves with a beautiful green and purple mottled color and plenty of taste!
The ‘Georgia Southern’ and ‘Green Glaze’ collards were not nearly as accommodating. Potted ‘Georgia Southern’ sprouted first, though germination was thin for both varieties, under both conditions. And once the sprouts began to fill out beyond their seed leaves, all the direct seeded ones were quickly munched to the ground by some vile rodent nesting in the nearby ‘Star’ Jasmine. Probably a relative of the same evil pest who turned my ‘Lady Govida’ pumpkin into Cinderella’s carriage.
A brazen infestation of diurnal rodents was certainly not in the summer gardening plan this year, but they came anyway, bringing their friends and relatives. My daughter saw as many as six individuals at once stealing yellow, red and even green tomatoes in broad daylight. I cut back the jasmine. I planted catnip. I put out peppermint plants, tea and oil. My daughter tested a number of different home-designed traps, all to no avail. Easily half of the tomato crop and a fair number of green beans were lost to them before the Iowa farmer living next door put an end to the “nonsense” with D-con bait and peanut butter. I’m not saying it’s my idea of a perfect solution, but I’m also not saying I’m not grateful to have the population culled a bit. Now maybe I can sprout a pea plant without having it ripped up and eaten before it even spreads it’s seed leaves!
I know some of the neighbors were probably laughing when they realized I had trellised my ‘Sugar Hubbard’ squash. But, for the record, they held just fine. Because of slow growth in our unusually cool spring weather, I held each of the trial vines to one squash, 7 and a half pounds and just over 5 pounds, with no tearing in the netting and nice strong necks. I can’t wait to try them to see if we like Hubbard squash. Let me know if you have a favorite recipe.
I put one ‘Waltham Butternut’ under green mulch this afternoon to try to keep it going farther into the fall, but all the other squash are done for this year. If the green mulch works, I plan to start melons, cucumbers and squash under it next spring, just in case. I want to be more prepared if we find ourselves standing around next May wondering when it’s going to warm up so I am testing several different kinds of season extenders this fall.
Though it looks a bit like spring with the overgrown summer crops disappearing into the compost pile and bare ground showing again as the garden switches over to rutabagas and radishes, broccoli and beets, carrots, cauliflower and collards. Salad greens are in alongside Asian mixes and thin strips of onions and garlic separate patches of this from patches of that.