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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Reviewing the Seasonality of Vegetables: Consider Lifestyle

Now that I've been cultivating veg going into the 4th year, I've been determined to better fine tune when I plant certain crops. Not that couldn't plant these crops at other times, but I've decided that there are certain times that suite my life better. As much that seasonality is about crop cycles, it's also about lifestyle. And if the plant has a flexibility, it's good to grow it to best suite how you use it. Given the limited space here at Mog Cottage, in some instances I would rather use the space for more seasonally sensitive crops. Seasonality is also about when pests peak too.

Those telltale holes mean cabbage moths have been at it.
Take kale. Every year I plant kale in the spring only to fight with those pesky cabbage moths ((Mamestra brassicae)) putting up an elaborate hoop house with Reemay to hermetically seal off the kale from the world. All this to keep a leaf eating larvae off my kale leaves. This year may be particularly bad given the warm winter we had. I was given 3 broccoli starts this spring. Since I'm not eating the leaves, I just covered them long enough to produce enough leaves where moth damage won't be so disconcerting.

Last year, I didn't get kale planted until August. Actually, I have been known to let kale go to seed and it comes up on its own quite well, even in late fall! At this point, the moths were pretty much gone while the kale started to grow (draping a bit of Reemay over the bed long enough to establish the plants). Kale over-winters nicely here and I like to use kale mainly in the fall and winter months in soups and stews. It also takes up a lot of space. So, the kale can grow and hog the beds when other crops won't grow because it's too cold. It slows down when the weather gets frosty, but perks right back up when the temperature returns to the mid 40's. In mid-spring, it goes to seed, so it gets yanked. I have enough kale seed to last longer than the seed will be viable.

With that, my winter beds consist mainly of garlic, onions, fava beans and kale. Occasionally, I'll plant other cabbage crops such as Filderkraut and, yes, purple sprouting broccoli is on the list. I recently purchased a new packet of the Ed Hume PSB seeds that famously exploded and lasted three years until an infestation of aphids took it out.

So, for summer, I'm planting a great substitute for kale: Swiss chard. It's a great leafy green from the beet family and can be used in most any recipe as a substitute for kale. It takes up less space, leaving room for summer crops. In fact, Swiss chard has a higher nutrient density than kale containing copious amounts of Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Beta carotene, Isoleucine and Phenylalanie. Swiss chard is a biennial that pretty much over-winters too, but tends to look rather ragged with time, so I pull it out when it's time to plant the kale.

Although chard supposedly attracts moths too, I've experienced only one issue with Swiss Chard: mollusks. I end up mulching with Slug-go and spent coffee grounds as no amount of Reemay keeps those buggers out. Here, in the great Pacific North-wet, slugs and snail season is 12 months. In the gardening world, it's always something.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Debra! Great info! I was feeling guilty about not getting kale in early this year. :-)


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