Monday, March 21, 2016

The Easter Lily

As an adult, I look back on the many Easters of my childhood.  I truly can't remember one where my parents didn't gift my Grandmothers with an Easter Lily as we entered their homes for Easter Dinner.  So, as an adult I still g
ive the gift of an Easter Lily to my mother in-law!  My mom not so much, she's usually pretty happy to see the last one leave with a customer, since we grow them.  The Easter Lily (Lilium longiforum) is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan, as well as the islands of Okinawa, Amani and Erabu.  The Easter Lily is the traditional flower of spring and is highly regarded as a joyful symbol of beauty, hope, and life. Each holiday is marked by cherished traditions that bring joy, comfort, and warmth, and provide continuity from one generation to the next. Easter has its share of traditions.  This will be my daughters first year to decorate eggs and to avidly hunt them.  Although she was way too small last year, she was given way too many filled gift baskets and chocolate bunnies.  My small family still rises early to attend sunrise church service. For many, the beautiful trumpet-shaped white flowers symbolize purity, virtue, innocence, hope and life — the spiritual essence of Easter.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

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The Cole Family...
No, this isn't the 'cool' family everyone wants to be, but it does consist of Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and Kohlrabi.  Yes, the many vegetables none of us like to eat as children.  Well, that is unless you're my 1 year old daughter and then you will eat anything put in front of you...and I mean anything.  The plants of the Cole family will adapt to cool weather temperatures into the 20's.  They all like reasonably fertile and well drained soil with a P.H. range of 6.0 - 6.8, (use a 12-12-12 fertilizer before planting.)  
Transplants from a nursery or green house are much easier to grow because they have already been hardened off.  Many Cole transplants are sold in 'big box stores' without being hardened off and therefore a gardener believes they will survive a frost and they do not.  Transplants that have been hardened off can be planted 18" apart and planted as deep as the first leaves up from the roots, (this helps to strengthen the stem.)
Broccoli: probably the most popular of the Cole crops and the least liked by children.  It's really easy to grow and unless you intend to preserve them, 6 - 12 plants are adequate for most families.  Broccoli is ready to harvest when the center green bud clusters, while the buds are still tight and green.  When harvesting Broccoli heads, cut the stalks at an angle to prevent the remaining stalk from decomposing.  Also, this helps the side shoots and can then produce better Broccoli.  To remove Broccoli worms, swish the head of the plant in a sink full of hot salt water before cooking. Great variety to grow: Green Comet
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Brussel Sprouts: produce as many as a hundred sprouts, that resemble tiny Cabbages clustered around the main stem.  The sprouts mature in sequence from the bottom of the stem up.  Pinch out the growing tip when 15" to 20" tall.  This helps to uniform the development and maturity of sprouts.  Brussels Sprouts can be harvested from the bottom of the stalk working up.  Pick when small, because the larger the sprouts, the more stronger and bitter tasting they will be.  Great variety to grow: Jade Cross E

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Cauliflower: Cauliflower does not form a head properly in hot weather.  It must be planted in early spring or fall.  For a spring crop plant a week or two before the average date of the last frost.  Around April 20 - 26.  I prefer to grow the Self-Blanching type, because their leaves naturally curl over the head when grown in cool weather, rather than others that have to have their leaves tied up so that they will blanch out.  Great varieties to grow: Self-Blanch White and Snow Crown

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Cabbage: plant so that you may harvest a few heads at a time rather than all at once.  Plant as early as possible in the spring that way you can have a second planting in mid summer for a fall crop.  Plants may be planted as close as 12" apart.  Cabbage loves nitrogen and potassium in addition to the 12-12-12 before planting.  Cabbage responds well to cool, moist soil and a mulch of straw.  Cabbage plants have a shallow root system and can be damaged during cultivation.  Harvest cabbage when the heads are firm and about the size of a soft ball.  Cut them off just beneath the head, leaving some bottom leaves to support new growth.  Great varieties to grow: Early Jersery Wakefield, Late Flat Dutch, Golden Acre, Red Acre and Stonehead.

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Kohlrabi: this unusual and little known vegetable that deserves to be grown and appreciated more.  It looks like a Turnip that grows above the ground, and sprouts the leaf stalks like those of Cabbage.  The flower is similar to both the Turnip and Cabbage, but it is much milder and sweeter.  Kohlrabi is more heat tolerant and like cabbage it has a shorter growing season, requiring only 45 to 60 days to mature.  Great varieties to grow: Early Purple Vienna and Early White Vienna.

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