Rat’s Tail Radish

VRA-5070-rat's tail radishRadish-Rat's Tail WIP  SSEradish-rat-tailedRadish_Rat's-Tail2

The Rat’s Tail Radish Customer Review:

“The average person who you give one of these too has no idea what it is. Until they taste it that is, when they say Wow, that tastes like a radish! These are delicious if you like the radish taste. At first I thought they were not very productive when I got the first few pods, but a month later I had so many I didn’t know what to do with them.” – DAVID, MN

http://www.bountifulgardens.org/products.asp?dept=96

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Tree Collards

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Bananas give you an idea of the size of the leaves.

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– Photos from Laura Bruno’s blog – laurabruno.files.wordpress.com

Tree Collards are much like regular collard greens except that they are 5-6 feet tall with purple-tinted leaves growing up a single tall stalk. They are definitely perennial in zones 8-10, maybe in zone 7, and may over-winter in other areas depending on the conditions. In colder zones, if you have established plants, you could try taking cuttings as winter begins and rooting them indoors for planting out the following spring. (We don’t know if this will work!)

Their history and biological identity seem to be shrouded in mystery, but they are reputed to come from Africa and have been preserved and passed on within African-American communities in this country. They do not normally flower or make seed, and when they do, the seed does not breed true. Instead propagation is by cuttings, which are passed along from gardener to gardener. Tree collard greens are tender and delicious in cool weather, so they are a good choice for a low-maintenance winter vegetable in mild climates. (They’re pretty good in warm weather also.)

We’ve grown these wonderful plants in our research gardens for decades. Collard leaves are rich in calcium (226 mg per cup, cooked), vitamins B1, B2, B9, and C (which may be leached by cooking, however), as well as beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A). They are high in soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties: diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have recently discovered that 3,3′-Diindolylmethane in Brassica vegetables such as collard greens is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity.

If it says “out of stock” go ahead and order; we are getting fresh cuttings in and mailing them out at the start of each week. We offer these in sets of three cuttings. Each cutting has several nodes from which leaves or roots will sprout. Cuttings should be put in pots in good potting soil (with half of the nodes below the soil and half above) and kept moist and in the shade to develop roots for a couple of months before planting out in the garden. Leaves may begin to grow at first but then will stop until good roots are formed. We cannot guarantee that all three cuttings will survive; conditions en route or in your own area may keep them from being successful.

SORRY, WE CANNOT SHIP TREE COLLARD CUTTINGS TO FOREIGN ADDRESSES OR OUTSIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL US.  They are too unlikely to survive the journey. If it says “out of stock” go ahead and order; we are getting cuttings in and mailing them out at the start of each week.

You’ll receive three cuttings and instructions for rooting them; they’ll be sent via Priority US Mail and should be placed in soil as soon as they arrive if possible. If you do not have the pots ready right away, they can be put in a vase with water for a day or two. If you order other items, these may come separately.

Instructions for growing the cuttings are included with your order.

“What’s a tree collard? It’s a perennial “tree” that produces amazingly huge collard-like leaves… which taste like an intriguing cross between collards and kale with just a hint of purple cabbage. They’re great in stir fries, “beanie greenies,” soups and even in scrambled eggs… I love them as wrappers for Whole Foods’ “Guac-Kale-Mole” and salsa, but they also sauté nicely as strips with a bit of garlic and lemon juice. I’ve added them as the green in “Beanie Greenies,” too. David and I particularly like Beanie Greenies with a splash of wheat free tamari, chipotle pepper, and a hint of miso and blackstrap molasses. Yum! In the past, I’ve had terrible luck growing collards, so I am thrilled with these tree collards. I’ve not done this yet, but supposedly, you can also cut off a lower branch, root it and grow a whole new tree. This one’s so prolific that I don’t think I’d need a second one. It loves the deep soil available in the second tier of my InstaBed.” – Laura Bruno’s blog – laurabruno.files.wordpress.com

Two useful links on starting tree collards:

Perennial Tree Collards Blog:  http://treecollards.blogspot.com/

San Franciso Gate (Chronicle), Home Guides:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/propagating-purple-tree-collards-66505.html

Tool Review – Our Widger

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↑ Shown here with a kitchen knife for comparison  ↑Fits well into small plug trays

Tool Review – The Widger

This tool’s diminutive stature may make it easy to overlook (or misplace as I often do) but it’s usefulness is in direct contrast to it’s size. If you grow seedlings or do any plant propagation work this little tool is quite handy. I was first introduced to a Widger in working with John Jeavons and Ecology Action. They use it a lot there because of the emphasis on growing seedlings in flats before planting out in beds. I’m not sure if it’s something they picked up from the gardening maestro Alan Chadwick but it certainly seems like something the Brits would use (indeed the original one I have is British made). The most important of the Widger’s uses is to transplant (or “prick out” in old school garden parlance) plugs or small seedlings into larger pots or into the garden. Somehow the shape, weight and slight curvature are just right to gently pull little seedlings and move them. At times when the Widger has been misplaced I’ve had to resort to using old butter knives or plant tags for the purpose and the difference is very noticeable. Think of the Widger as a very small trowel and you will find uses for making small holes for seeds or cuttings or even for weeding in tight cracks or in delicate situations. Like one of our other favorite tools, the widger has one end that is smaller than the other which can come in handy for lifting different sized seedlings and other tasks. A proper widger should be made from a single piece of steel and has a nice weight and strength to it. As such it can be handy for prying things and the like. My British model is tough enough that it’s been in regular use for 18 years and I imagine it will long outlast me. If you’re doing greenhouse work it’s just a generally handy tool to keep in your pocket. As far as I know the only place to get them is through the wonderful seed and supply outfit Bountiful Gardens. At $5 and change it’s a good investment.

Adam Sarmiento
Eco Landscaping
618 Jenkins Ave.
Norman, OK

http://ecogardenok.com/ecolandscaping/tool-review-widger/

New Best Book on Companion Plants

NAME: The Complete Guide to Companion Planting:
Sub_title: Everything you need to know to make your garden successful
AUTHOR: Dale Mayer
DATE/ED: 2015
PAGES: 288
SEC: Companion Planting
DESCRIPTION: We have just received copies of the second edition of The Complete Guide to Companion Planting: Everything you need to know to make your garden successful. They have updated some, but the big change is a color picture section, and a reduced price.

I find this the best book in print on companions. This book is organized like an encyclopedia, so you can look up rosemary under herbs, pumpkin under vegetables, marigolds under “Annuals for your Garden”, Peony under “Companion Perennials”, dandelion under “Wildflowers and Weeds”, Daffodils under “Bulbs, Tubers, and Rhizomes”, Lilac or Yucca under “Shrubs, Bushes and Vines”, or grapes under “Companion Fruits”. It is fairly easy to locate the basic one-on-one relationships. The scope and organization of the chapters extend the awareness of companions way beyond veggies and herbs, as it should be. All living things have inter-relationships that mainifest themselves in a variety of ways.

What is needed for the next best book on companions? Even broader coverage – a section on mycorrhizae separating the good from the bad; insects of all sorts need a section; and mammals, birds and reptiles probably deserve a section. What about bacteria (so essential to all life)? There also has to be a unifying principle or principles on the order of IPM or Permaculture; and at Bountiful Gardens we are observing a coalescing of all these principles and more. But for now this is the book to have. Perhaps second to have would be our book on Attracting Beneficials.

WEIGHT: .1.9 lbs.
PRICE: $14.99 (was $24.99)
BG Code: BGE-1221

Biodynamic Gardening

Biodynamic Gardening

Biodynamic Gardening

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Biodynamic Gardening, Growing healthy plants and amazing produce with the help of the Moon and nature’s cycles

Monty Waldin, 2015, 256 pp.

Biodynamic gardening has needed a book like this for a long time. It is hard to grasp many of the methods and techniques used in biodynamic gardening, so this gorgeously illustrated book is just what is needed to quickly understand how biodynamics works. The writing is clear and to the point, it’s fun when a great read teaches you so much. Excellent pictures and illustrations take you through all the basic concepts and preparations, such illustrations have been absent in other books on this method. We still recommend Grasp the Nettle as the essential book for biodynamic gardeners and farmers, but for beginners, or the interested, this is the book to get.

This is, in fact, a great book for any beginning gardener to learn all the essential organic gardening techniques. You are immediately walked through some organic basics: garden assessment, making compost, water wisely, welcoming wildlife, companion planting, and seed saving. Then they cover natural remedies: using plants to cure plants (highlighting 16 essential plants and how to use them), kelp liquid manure, compost and weed teas.

The next section is about the biodynamic approach and the planetary cycles. A large portion of the book is devoted to explaining the biodynamic preparations 500-507 and how to make them. Then making a biodynamic compost heap, barrel compost, tree paste, liquid manures, and weed pepper and how to use them. Pictures here are a godsend.

The last section is a biodynamic year planner that simultaneously covers inter-related but disparate topics: the four seasons, the four crop types (root, leaf, fruit, and flower), and most individual vegetables and trees (giving good descriptions and specific biodynamic planting instructions for each crop).

This is a wider reach than Grasp the Nettle, which assumes you will pick up some of these techniques elsewhere (such as companion planting). Other books on biodynamics delve (in my opinion) too deeply into the mystical aspects (which are “real” and compelling, but) which drives many gardeners away from what is a very practical gardening method. I do heartily recommend looking into some of Rudolph Steiner’s writings on spirits and elementals, but not here.

Bill Bruneau, BG

In Praise of Tromboncino Squash

VSQ-5469 trombocino

We’ve grown Tromboncino for two years now, and as great as our other summer squashes are, this is now my favorite, especially after last year. My wife does the planting and says that it is mildly late (since it is essentially a winter squash compared to squashes like zucchini). It doesn’t produce a huge number of fruits, but those fruits can give you a lot of yummy squash in a family size package.

What I love first about Tromboncino is the size the fruits can achieve while still being tender and succulent. We are talking about a three-foot long squash that is mostly neck, which is good, since the neck is all sweet meat, and at that size the neck is between 2 and 3 inches across. That is a lot of succulent squash! The bulb end, the seed cavity, is just as good but requires some cleaning and prep.

What I love second is how long the fruits last – this “summer squash” lasts a long time after picking. The two of us can only eat so much squash at a time. Once cut the fruit can last weeks. In fact we would leave it for days, cut off just the exposed end that had gotten funky, use another chunk, maybe leave it for a week, cut off another exposed end, and by then we might be down to the bulb on the end, which we use over another week.

What I love third, but not least, is how it becomes a sort of winter squash. A squash we picked in late September sat on our radiant floor until Thanksgiving when our children and family were coming. The skin had paled from a pale green to a slightly orangey yellow. We had been sort of enjoying it as a sculpture (fourth reason) but had to make room for our small horde, so I went to toss it and noticed that it still was firm and soft. Oh! So I put it on the counter and cut a chunk off the long neck. It looked like a melon, with the flesh a pale salmon. It cooked up into fritters quite well, not requiring skinning, just running a chunk of neck through the Cuisinart. The flavor was excellent but perhaps a bit less flavorful than when fresh. We ate pieces of this squash at Thanksgiving to everyone’s delight, and all through December. I blush to admit wasting the last piece, letting it sit is the fridge well into January before it succumbed.

In future years will have to explore how long they can last before opening – February? April? Will make sure I have a few extra to try out. – Bill Bruneau, Bountiful Gardens

How important are mycorrhizae? Part one

How important are mycorrhizae to garden health? This subject came up in a discussion with the editor of our Ecology Action newsletter, whose excellent article I hope to re-print later. During the discussion I remembered this quote:

Creating a Forest Garden: working with nature to grow edible crops, by Martin Crawford. To me this is the best book on establishing a working forest garden. Martin is well-respected in this field.

Page 57 (Chapter 6: Fertility in Forest Gardens): “… in a functioning semi-mature forest garden you will find that as long as there are enough nutrients around, they will automatically get allocated to the plants that need them. This occurs because of the network of mycorrhizae that form in time beneath a perennial plant system. These symbiotic fungi are critical parts of a healthy wild or agro-ecosystem. Mycorrhizae scavenge for hard-to-find nutrients, passing these on to plants, but they also move nutrients around from areas of surplus to areas of shortage – so they will move nitrogen from areas of soil where there is plenty (under nitrogen fixers, for example) to areas of demand (heavily cropping fruit trees, for example).” He later says that he plants nitrogen-fixing trees that spread the nitrogen to the limits of the canopy, and then expects that the mycorrhizae will then spread some of that nitrogen all through the garden, especially where it is needed.

– Bill Bruneau, BG