Feature Wednesday – Salad Turnip

We came across this lovely brassica vegetable when trying to find quick growing crops for the CSA. We are glad we did find it! Our family loves it and eats it raw and cooked! Here’s what we learned:

▪︎ Salad Turnips grow more evenly in shape in cool temperatures however they will grow in the Summer too.

▪︎Leaves as well as roots are delicious, technically yielding two crops for the price of one!

▪︎As with most brassicas, the flavor of the roots and leaves are sweeter in the cooler months of the growing season.

▪︎They can be planted densely and still thrive but must be planted in soil rich in organic matter for this to be true.

▪︎We find when night time temps are consistently above 60° these grow the fastest! We have harvested as early as 35 days in Spring! Fall/Winter is a different story altogether. The batch that we just began harvesting from yesterday was planted October 16th.

▪︎We have more success planting in field areas or raised beds as opposed to the high tunnel.

▪︎Although we can tell they prefer full sun, we have noticed they will tolerate partial shade however more growing days will be required.

Cons…

▪︎It seems that all pests love them! If planted in Spring or Summer some sort of organic pesticide will almost certainly be needed. This decreases though as Fall and Winter approach.

▪︎Heavy rainfall or inconsistent watering will cause the roots to split making it even easier for pests to help themselves.

▪︎Leaves tend to hold on to dirt making them a bit more labor intensive to clean.

Have you planted the beautiful Salad Turnip before? What was your experience? Will you plant it again. Let us know in the comments!


Feature Wednesday – Fennel

Admittedly until a few years ago I didn’t know what Fennel was. Since then we have come to love this frilly cousin to the carrot. Here’s why:

▪︎ It freezes well! We tend to avoid blanching if at all possible and fennel – root & fronds – do well without it. Frozen Fennel goes well in soup & smoothies!

▪︎It does prefer to be planted in soil rich in organic matter however if you do so very little care besides the normal weeding and watering is needed. As you can see in our photo below, some weeding is needed for ours!

▪︎Butterflies love it & we love the butterflies so why NOT grow fennel! Each year we leave fennel in the beds just for them. The Black Swallowtails lay eggs on them and the little caterpillars come into the world ravenous! They devour the Fennel quickly. We collected one of the cocoons and got a butterfly. You can see that video here.

▪︎It freely self sows if you allow it to go to seed! These self sown plants are really strong for us.

▪︎You have the potential to get three harvests – several harvests of the fronds, one from the bulb, and if you choose to leave the bulb in the ground then you can harvest the seeds which are often used in cooking.

▪︎It deters aphids. Try putting potted Fennel near plants that attract aphids.

Cons…

▪︎ It has a strong licorice like flavor that’s not tolerable for some.

▪︎ While it can tolerate some frost we have found that it will show signs of stress with sustained freezing temperatures.

▪︎Fennel is allelopathic which basically means it doesn’t like roommates. Other crops tend to struggle growing near it due to its releasing certain chemicals into the soil. Currently we have some self sown kale & arugula growing near ours but we have noticed their growth seems to be stunted.

So what do you say to Fennel – yay or nay?


Feature Wednesday – Curly Kale

As Kale is one of the favorite leafy greens here at Bain Home Gardens, you had to know several would be on our list! While we love all types, we have found Blue Vates Curly Kale to be the best one for our zone. Why do we plant it year after year?

▪︎ It tastes so good & is versatile in its use – from eating in a salads to eating as pesto or with corn bread!

▪︎It holds up to heat and cold. While the Winter is of course best for these leafy greens, Curly Kale endures heat well too! Admittedly the flavor is far less sweet in the Summer but applying shade cloth keeps the leaves moderately tender. We often use our Summer crop for smoothies or greens powder.

▪︎It grows fast! In the Spring from planting it will be ready for first harvest in about a month and a half. In Fall that jumps to about two and a half months. We always fertilize with blood meal or fish emulsion at planting and quarterly thereafter.

▪︎ It is a cut and come again green. You don’t harvest the entire plant just the leaves, making yield possibilities have high potential! We have had two Curly Kale last 2 years and we harvested the entire time!

Cons…

▪︎ The Curly nature of the leaves makes it difficult to clean. We prefer to plant it in our high tunnel to avoid splashes of dirt collecting from rains.

▪︎Pest control is more difficult because it is very easy for the pests to hide in the crevices created by those curls.

▪︎Every pests seems to love it especially at the young tender stage. We fight hard to get it past this stage (1st 30 days). We utilize organic sprays and mosquito netting to accomplish this.

There you have it! I know most of you already have Curly Kale planted in your gardens. If not, it’s not too late! The growth maybe really slow this time of year but come Spring your Curly Kale will blow up in all is Curly kaleness! What do say? Will you grow Curly Kale with us?


Feature Wednesday – Opal Basil

This week we are featuring Opal Basil. You maybe wondering why basil, clearly a Summer crop, is on our Fall list. Well the cool thing about Fall in our area is the overlap of produce. Some Summer crops hold up very nicely in the Fall. Some even preform better! While that is not the case here let me tell you why we love Opal Basil:

▪︎It’s purple – duh! You already know I love purple. As it has such a beautiful color it’s a great addition to your edible landscaping.

▪︎The aroma is outstanding! It is only the second most aromatic basil we have grown (second only to Blue Spice Basil). The farm smells great on a windy day!

▪︎ The flavor is a bit milder than most basil varieties. I like it best dehydrated for tea though it does make an interesting looking pesto.

▪︎The color becomes even more intense with cooler temperatures however during the Summer months you’ll note more green on the leaves.

▪︎Bees love it and we love the bees! On many mornings I’ve had to skip harvesting it and come after the bees had breakfast. They seem to enjoy these lavender flowers more than the white flowers on our other basil varieties more.

▪︎ On our farm it is also used in our flower bouquets adding to a visual beauty as well as magnificent aroma to the bouquet!

▪︎It can handle a light frost! No joke!!! For two years straight this has been my observation. We have had 2 light frosts on our farm & our Opal Basil has been unscathed!

Cons…

▪︎ It is more spotty with germination and seedlings can be challenging to keep alive.

▪︎Although it can handle some cold, the growth will stunt notably once temperatures are below 70° consistently.

▪︎It isn’t as quick to self seed as other basil varieties we grow. So will definitely require replanting yearly.

Okay fellow gardeners what do think about Opal Basil? Do you grow it? Will you next season? Let us know!


Feature Wednesday – Rocket Arugula

As we talk with many in the area we find that Arugula is one of those leafy greens that either you love it or you hate it greens. We LOVE it! We add it to salad mixes, sautéed it with eggs, and have even made a delicious pesto out of it! It will always have a place on the farm. Here’s what we have learned over the years:

▪︎Here in zone 8 it can be grown year round. This is perhaps my favorite feature of Arugula. Growing it in the dead of Summer will require a bit of shade cloth to keep the flavor from becoming bitter & bolting however it will be considerably spicier!

▪︎It is extremely resistant to pests. Or they just don’t like it. Either way we don’t mind!

▪︎It will grow in just about whatever soil you plant it in!

▪︎Does not require lots of watering. Even in Summer the Arugula beds could go with watering every other day as a opposed to daily.

▪︎It is not a heavy feeder so will not deplete soil of vital nutrients. We do still fertilize with fish emulsion at planting.

▪︎In Spring & Summer it grows extremely quick (35 days for us), thus the name. In Fall and Winter expect it to take about 20 more days to reach maturity.

▪︎ It germinates very well and thus is a great for direct sowing as well as intense planting, both of which we practice with it.

▪︎ If allowed to go to seed it will freely self sow. For some reason these self sown plants seem to be the strongest plants on the farm!

▪︎ Speaking of going to seed, we have found Rocket Arugula to still be palatable even at this point. Just avoid those woody stems. We have even eaten the flowers & believe it or not they are good too!

▪︎Although we harvest the entire plant when growing Arugula, it can be grown as a cut and come again green.

▪︎It is moderately frost tolerant. We have even had it rebound after a hard freeze (19 degrees!)!!!

▪︎Can be used young as a salad green however if it continues to grow it can be harvested and used in cooking. We stew like we would Collards or Mustards. The advantage is it does not require nearly as long to cook! We like this option for large harvests.

▪︎It freezes well. Flash freezing is best. We found this prevents clumping in the bag and allows us to be able to use a little here and there rather than the whole bag.

▪︎It is an excellent edible chop and drop Fall cover crop! Arugula like its cousin the Mustard Green has great antifungal properties for the soil. The next items you plant here will thank you!!!

▪︎Our chickens love it! Well most of them do! Here is a video of our Buff Orphington being very mouthy about getting arugula for breakfast instead of feed!

There you have it folks – all you need to know about Rocket Arugula! Alternatively we plant Astro Arugula with the exact same results. We hope that you find a space or even a pot for arugula this growing season and if you do we hope the above tips help you find success!