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Harvesting Belgian Endive Roots

November 22nd, 2016

I’ve been waiting for the weather to turn cold so I could harvest my Belgian endive roots. These are ‘Totem’ variety, the seeds were sourced from Johnny’s Seeds. I’ve tried growing endive roots for forcing for many years and something has always eaten the tops, or the seed was washed away in a spring rainstorm, or something else happened to them. That never stopped my from sowing seed every year, hoping I’d end up with large roots to force chicons for winter eating. The cold weather finally hit and the leaves wilted a bit in the cold.
harvesting-belgian-endive-roots-1
I became interested in doing this after reading Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest. He has a nice section on how to grow them and what to do with them in order to force them. Johnny’s also has a nice resource page on their website (which is not available right now because of their redesign, I’ll try to remember to post a link to it later). It’s pretty simple to force chicons. The first step is to cut the leaves off the plants leaving about an inch or two of stem, you want to be careful not to cut too close to the root so you don’t damage the crown. The chickens were super happy to gobble up all those leaves.
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Then carefully dig the roots, they’re like parsnips or large carrots. You only need 6-8 inches of root, they’re much longer than that but can be quite difficult to dig up in their entirety. Some of my snapped neatly right at the perfect length when I was digging them.
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There are several methods for treating the roots, I decided to follow the methods recommended by Johnny’s. I layered the roots into baskets, covered them with damp burlap, and put them in a cold room of my garage. They’ll stay there for 3 weeks or so, then I’ll start planting them in buckets of soilless potting mix.
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When I want to start growing chicons, I’ll put the buckets on my seedling heating mat the basement. The top of the bucket will be covered with a black plastic pot in order to ensure darkness. They like warm soil and cool air temperatures for producing chicons. I figured the heating mat would warm the soil in the buckets but the ambient air in the basement is the perfect temperature for them. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of my efforts. Here’s hoping I’m eating chicons in January!

Have you grown any new and interesting veg this year?

Snug as Bugs

March 23rd, 2016

My greens are all snug as bugs in the low tunnel in the potager. After I transplanted them we had some really cold nights, down into the teens. I added an extra layer of agribon to my little lovelies and they came through with flying colors.
Low tunnel
When I went out in the morning the temperature under the agribon was 10 degrees warmer than outside the low tunnel. It’s pretty amazing what you can do with a little bit of plastic. Hopefully I’ll be eating lettuce in a few weeks.

What’s the temperature like in your garden?

Planting in the Low Tunnel

March 2nd, 2016

This past Sunday we had a beautiful day, highs near fifty and sunny. Perfect for working in the garden, only the ground is still frozen. The soil in the low tunnel is thawed and workable, in fact the spinach in there is starting to grow new leaves. I have lettuce seedlings under the grow light that can be planted outside any day now, I’ve just been waiting for the weather to be above the single digits at night. I finally broke down and ordered a four pack of these probe thermometers, one will be put in the low tunnel so I can monitor the temperatures in there during the day and at night. I’ll use one under my grow lights too so I know the ambient temperature there as well.
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I decided to take a few of each and plant in the low tunnel. We have a night that’s supposed to be 3 degrees, tomorrow evening – brrr. I decided it was worth planting a few seedlings out to see how they survive that kind of a night. That will give me a good idea of the weather inside the low tunnel. I’m thinking about giving them an additional layer of protection on that night, perhaps a milk jug or even another layer of frost blanket. I also seeded some arugula and cilantro in there.
planting in the low tunnel 3
I transplanted a few spinach seedlings as well, we’ll se how all this stuff does on that one frigid night. If it does well I’ll be filling the low tunnel with other lettuces and greens. We shouldn’t really have any more of those. Soon enough I’ll have enough garden chores to keep me busy on beautiful days, I can hardly wait!

What are you planting this week?

I Spy…

March 1st, 2016

On Sunday, I was checking the soil and spinach plants in the low tunnel and spotted a ‘Bowles Black’ violet blooming in there. What a wonderful sight it was!
black violet
I love having plants like Johnny’s jump ups and violets in my potager because they tell when I can do certain things. When I see them blooming I know that I can start planting and seeding spinach, arugula, cilantro, and other cold tolerant crops and they will germinate. The violets in the rest of the potager are nowhere to be seen, it will be a few weeks before they show their faces. Thanks to this beauty, I know it’s time to transplant some of the lettuce seedlings I have under grow lights into the low tunnel.

Do you have any plants that are signals for you?

A Nice Window

February 4th, 2016

It’s been a little warm here the past few days, our blanket of snow has melted and the ground can be worked. It’s the perfect time to broadcast a few seeds for cold tolerant varieties like arugula, cilantro, mustard, and a few other things. Winter will return, in fact we’re supposed to get snow tomorrow and next week it will once again be in the single digits. These seeds don’t care, they will wait and spring forth when they’re ready.
winter seeding 2
They won’t germinate as quickly as they do when the soil is warmer, but they’ll germinate when the conditions are right and I’ll have a much earlier crop that I would have if I had waited.
winter seeding 1
I’m also going to be seeding a flat of lettuce, which is something I do every year. I find that having a flat of greens ready to go into the ground in spring gives me a jump on the season and has me harvesting greens for my table at least a month if not 6 weeks before direct seeded crops. I love having things ready to plant as soon as the ground is ready. This winter has been fairly mild, which means my overwintered spinach is thriving and should start growing as soon as conditions improve in a month or so.

What are you doing in the garden this weekend?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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