Category Archives: Produce Dept.

Posts about edible plants

Ready, Set, Plant!

Strawberry Delizz F1 is an ever-bearing variety that is the first strawberry in AAS history to be chosen as a winner. However, it may not be widely available until 2017. You can plant strawberries in early spring. (Photo courtesy of All-America Selections)

Strawberry Delizz F1 is an ever-bearing variety that is the first strawberry in AAS history to be chosen as a winner. However, it may not be widely available until 2017. You can plant strawberries in early spring. (Photo courtesy of All-America Selections)

It’s early April, and the weather still can be cold and blustery at times. But even so, it’s about time to plant your cool-season crops along Colorado’s Front Range. Some of you ambitious types may already have a few crops in the ground.

One of the best ways to determine whether to plant is by checking the soil temperature. To do this, stick a soil or meat thermometer four inches into the soil in four areas of your garden plot. If you’re growing beans stick the thermometer down six inches. Record each temperature. Do this for a few days. If your readings average 40 to 50 degrees, it’s time to plant.

You can even warm the soil faster by covering it with black plastic. It’s not cheating.

Or you can simply check daytime temperatures to make sure they’re not dipping below 40 degrees.

Which are the hardiest cool-season crops? Peas, radishes, cabbage, lettuce, spinach and onions, to name a few. I’m not talking about tomatoes and peppers here—those are warm-season crops, which we typically don’t plant until late May or early June after the risk of frost has passed. But you can go ahead now and plant seeds indoors for those crops.

Warm-season crops need outdoor soil temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees.

Candyland is the first currant-type tomato selected as an All-America Selections winner in AAS history. (Photo courtesy of All-America Selections)

Candyland is the first currant-type tomato selected as an All-America Selections winner in AAS history. (Photo courtesy of All-America Selections)

For more information about when to plant various crops, check the Colorado State University Extension website.

If you’re wondering which varieties to plant, take a look at All-America Selections (AAS).

Each year, the folks at All-America Selections carry out rigorous trials on flower and vegetable varieties to determine the best performers. Then AAS posts the winners each year on their website.

It’s a big deal in the green industry for a variety to be chosen as an AAS champ.

For the first time in AAS’ history, the judges have selected a strawberry and a currant-type tomato for 2016. The strawberry variety is the ever-bearing Strawberry Delizz F1, and the currant tomato variety is Tomato Candyland Red.

Often the newly named varieties are difficult to find in garden centers because the seed companies and growers haven’t had time to ramp up production on the winners.

So if you can’t find the 2016 champs this year, simply buy selections from earlier years. You can bet that by next year, seed companies and growers will make the 2016 winners more widely available.

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Let Vegetables Spice up Garden with Bright Colors and Flavor

NuMex Easter ornamental pepper brightens a border or patio. (Photo courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

NuMex Easter ornamental pepper brightens a border or patio. (Photo courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

This morning as I walked to the library, I noticed that a neighbor had covered her shrubs with white sheets to protect them from last night’s below-freezing temperatures.  Her front yard resembled a collection of spooky trick-or-treaters.

Now that temperatures are forecasted to warm up, the plant covers can come off, and we can install warm season vegetables in our garden beds.

This year, why not make your garden more enticing with vegetables that are ornamental, as well as flavorful?

NuMex Easter pepper, a 2014 All-America Selections winner, is a compact plant with small clusters of cute, hot ornamental peppers in Easter-egg shades of lavender, yellow and light orange.  Although this beauty won’t tolerate frost, it will tolerate normal to dry soil conditions and deliver solid performance as a container plant or low-growing edger.

Lemon cucumbers, with their fresh, mild taste, are a delight in the garden.  These round fruits with their lemony-yellow color reach about three inches in diameter and can be eaten like an apple.  I grew these last year and dubbed them a favorite for both appearance and flavor.

Calliope eggplant is a small, oval Asian-style eggplant so attractive that you'll want to display it before eating it. (Photo courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

Calliope eggplant is a small, oval Asian-style eggplant so attractive that you’ll want to display it before eating it. (Photo courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

Calliope eggplant provides a stunning display with its white-striped purple skin complemented by soft green foliage.  At maturity, the fruits are three to four inches long with a diameter of about 2.5 inches.

Lizzano F1 semi-determinate cherry tomato offers a continuous crop of fruit to perk up  containers or hanging baskets.  As the one-inch fruits mature from green to bright red, they display color rivaling that of many flowers.  Lizzano is a 2011 All-America Selections winner.

To see more delicious and attractive vegetables, visit the National Garden Bureau website at ngb.org.

 

 

 

 

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It Feels Like Oklahoma! in Colorado

Harris Seed Company's new Frilly F1 sunflower variety makes a strong statement with its architectural form and impressive blooms.

Harris Seed Company’s new Frilly F1 sunflower variety makes a strong statement with its architectural form and impressive blooms.

I feel as though I’m in the cast of Oklahoma! with all of the sunflowers popping up in my backyard.

Earlier this year, the Harris Seed Company in Rochester, New York, sent me several seed varieties to test in my garden as part of the company’s seed trials.  I’ve been testing Kruger MTO Romaine lettuce, Bonanza Deep Orange marigold and Frilly F1 sunflower.  All three varieties are impressive.

Kruger MTO Romaine is tasty, attractive and uniform.  I particularly like its resistance to bolting.  Granted, like other lettuce varieties, it eventually bolted (sent up a flower stalk that went to seed), but only after enduring several weeks of over-90 –degree temperatures.

Bonanza Deep Orange is a French marigold with a compact growth habit, deep green foliage and vivid, long-lasting blooms.

Bonanza Deep Orange is a French marigold with a compact growth habit, deep green foliage and vivid, long-lasting blooms.

The marigolds began blooming at the end of June and are still pumping out 2-inch-wide, plump orange blossoms atop their lush, deep green foliage.  The long-lasting flowers are knockouts.

My favorite, however, is the Frilly F1 sunflower.  True to its name, it lends a playful air to the garden with its six-foot stalks and an explosion of vibrant flowers.  Its brown-and-yellow faces, up to 8 inches wide, began showing up just last weekend.

Watch for these varieties in the Harris Seed catalog.

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Enter Now to Win Gift For Tomato Lovers!

2013-Calendar-CoverHave you or a tomato-loving friend ever wanted a calendar that would tell you what to do at the right time to successfully grow tomatoes?  If so, then Laura Taylor at tomatomatters.com has developed just the gift for you.  Her beautifully illustrated wall calendar, 2013 Tomatoes: A Month-by-Month Guide to Growing Tomatoes, provides tips (color-coded by region) for preparing beds, buying plants, staking and other tomato-related activities.  So no matter where you live in the US, you’ll know what to do when.   In addition, the calendar features tempting recipes, such as one for Tomato and Sweet Onion Crisp.

I’ll be holding a drawing Sunday, December 16, 2012 to select the winner of a 2013 Tomatoes calendar.  To enter, just send an email to blossomsandblueprints@gmail.com, suggesting an idea for a garden-related story you would like to see posted on this blog in 2013 and beyond.  Entries must be received by 2pm EST December 16, 2012 to be eligible.

Don’t delay!  Enter today!

December 16, 2012 update:  The winner of the 2013 Tomatoes calendar is Sian Miletich of Denver, Colorado!  She suggested a story on winter interest.  Congratulations, Sian, and thanks to everyone who entered!

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Try these Killer Recipes for Your Harvest

Cherry tomatoes & zucchini

Cherry tomatoes and zucchini are just two of the healthy ingredients in these harvest recipes.

Last year I spotted a chicken stew with roasted ratatouille recipe in USA Weekend that looked intriguing.  Up to this point, I had never tasted ratatouille and had no particular desire to do so.  But when I reviewed the nutritional information and saw that a serving of the stew yielded 33 grams of protein and only 11 grams of carbohydrates, I decided this recipe was definitely worth a try.

Man, is it good!  I’ve shared this recipe with co-workers and friends, who rave about it as well.  So now I’m sharing it with you.  Check out the Summer Chicken Stew with Roasted Ratatouille recipe at http://threemanycooks.com/recipes/salads-and-sides/one-batch-of-ratatouille-yields-3-simple-summer-meals/.  The online version of the recipe doesn’t contain nutritional information but you’ll probably surmise from the ingredients that this stuff is good for you.

As a result of this recipe, I grew zucchinis, eggplant, sweet onions and peppers for the first time this year.

Another recipe that I love for zucchinis and such is the South Beach Diet Cheesy Frittata recipe at http://www.food.com/recipe/south-beach-diet-cheesy-frittata-296997.  It’s a great breakfast dish with 21 grams of protein and only 16 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Also, take a look at the Recipes link at http://picturerealfood.com/about/.  You’ll find gourmet recipes for your produce.

Dishes like these make growing vegetables worthwhile.  If you have favorite harvest recipes, feel free to click the Comment button and share.

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What’s that White Stuff on My Zucchini?

 

Zucchini

When powdery mildew attacks your zucchini, it can decrease the plant’s production and even kill its host.

Do you see a coating that looks like powdered sugar on your zucchini leaves?  Well, don’t lick it.

You most likely have powdery mildew.  Get rid of it before it kills your plant and infects other plants in your garden.

When powdery mildew shows up, I spray my zucchini every couple of days this concoction:  a gallon of water, a tablespoon of baking soda and a squirt of dishwashing soap.  The soap acts as a binding agent.  I just mix the solution, pour it into my hose-end sprayer and spray my zucchini plants thoroughly.

To discourage the growth of powdery mildew, avoid overhead watering and, when you do water, do it early in the day so any drops that end up on the plant evaporate by nightfall.

Zucchini is destined to attract powdery mildew as it matures.  One way to deal with the issue is to plant a second zucchini plant elsewhere in the garden a few weeks after planting the first zucchini plant.  So when the first plant starts mildewing, the second plant likely won’t have reached that phase yet.

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Share your Harvest with the Hungry

Zucchini blossom

A blossom announces the upcoming birth of another zucchini.

This morning I delivered 15 pounds of zucchini to a nearby food bank.  Given that zucchini is now in season, I thought there would be a plethora of zucchinis at the food bank.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I arrived, I noticed mostly canned and processed foods on the tables.  I also spotted two flats of store-bought peaches.  But other than my zucchini, there were no fresh vegetables.

Jodi Torpey at www.westerngardeners.com is a coordinator for Plant a Row for the Hungry in metro Denver.  I haven’t participated in the past, partly because planting a row sounded like a little more structure than I could handle.  But this year I decided to plant a couple of zucchini plants and an extra tomato plant for the hungry.  Once my zucchini plants started producing, I contacted Jodi for a list of local food pantries.

Don’t make the mistake that I did and assume that a few fresh vegetables won’t make a difference at a food bank.  If you live in metro Denver and have some extra produce in your garden, contact Jodi on her website.  She’ll send you a list of local food banks that may be surprisingly close to your home.

If you outside metro Denver, do a Google search for Plant a Row for the Hungry followed by your city or state to find a coordinator in your area.

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