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Trial and Error

June 11th, 2015

If you’ve read here long, you know that I love to grow different varieties of each vegetable. One of the main reasons for that is to discover which varieties do best in my climate and with my soil. Each garden has a different microclimate and the soils can be slightly different, even from your neighbor’s garden. Sometimes, one variety of a vegetable won’t do as well as another. Take my 5×5 Challenge garden this year:
bolting Spinach 2
It was planted with two different varieties of spinach on April 13. As you can clearly see, one is going to seed while the other isn’t. The ‘Catalina’ spinach from Renee’s Garden on the right is still going strong, even though they were both seeded at the same time. “Catalina’ has been a favorite spinach of mine for many years, it’s been very successful in my Ohio garden and in my garden here in Maine as well. Because of this I grow it every year, but I also trial other varieties as well.
catalina spinach
The other variety I planted was ‘Bloomsdale’ an old variety, that actually does quite well in the garden. Spinach is a little like carrots in that it can be slightly picky about being planted too closely.
bolting Spinach 1
It used to be that we had regional varieties of vegetables that were particularly suited to microclimates and geographic areas. Much of those varieties have been lost throughout the years, with a more mobile society and fewer people growing their own food and saving their own seed. We can start developing this knowledge once again, by trying different varieties, talking to local gardeners, and saving seed from open pollinated varieties that do particularly well in our area.

Do you trial different varieties of the same vegetables to find the perfect one for your garden?

Popeye Would Be Happy

June 11th, 2013

Last week all the spinach that I planted many months ago started to bolt. So I harvested all of it, many, many pounds.
spinach harvest 1
spinach harvest 2
All of it was rinsed, cooked, and packed into small containers in the freezer for winter soups and sauces.
spinach harvest 3
What didn’t make it into the freezer was fed to the pigs, they LOVED it.

What’s in your harvest basket this week?

Patiently Waiting

April 11th, 2013

Remember that spinach I sowed in the low tunnel in the garden at the end of March?
spinach in the low tunnel 2
I’ve been keeping a keen eye on it waiting for germination. It looks like the two types of soaked seeds germinated a day ahead of the non-soaked seed. Not sure if that makes soaking worth the hassle. I’ll be watching to see if one grows better than the other as well, but I’m guessing they’ll probably be the same.
spinach in the low tunnel 1
One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to harvest my first bowl of spinach. As I prepared a frittata this morning I was wishing I had some kind of green to put in it. I used to very much dislike cooked greens, but the more I eat them the more I like them, especially with eggs.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy spinach?

Planting Spinach

March 27th, 2013

It’s official, the 2013 edible gardening season has begun.  I have already planted lots of seeds, mostly for onions and herbs, but the season doesn’t officially start for me until I plant seeds in real soil in the garden.  On Monday, I spent time planting a large section of spinach.
planting spinach 1
Of course, I couldn’t just plant spinach seed, curiosity always gets the best of me.  It’s a common theory that soaking certain seeds will make them germinate faster.  Soaking them in a diluted kelp liquid is supposed to make them germinate even faster yet.
planting spinach 3
On Monday there were a few different cups of spinach seeds soaking, one in plain water, on in diluted liquid kelp.  I planted both 12 rows of each of these and 10 of unsoaked seed. What variety of spinach did I plant? ‘Space’ from Johnny’s Seeds, which is supposed to be a good cold tolerant spinach.
planting spinach 2
I must admit, I hope that the regular seed germinates just as fast, soaking seeds is a bit of a pain.  It’s much more difficult to plant wet seeds with precision.  Drying them on a paper towel first helped a lot, the seeds were much easier to handle when they weren’t dripping with water.  It is still a little inconvenient to do this, especially if you’re planting a large section of spinach.
planting spinach 4
After planting, the row was covered with greenhouse plastic over hoops.  This is the same bed that was covered last week before the snow to help the soil stay dry and warm for planting.  It’s amazing the difference this made, had I not done this, there would be no planting of spinach until most likely 2 weeks from now.  The soil in the rest of the garden is still frozen solid and covered with a few inches of snow.  It will take a while for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw and dry out enough for planting seeds.

Do you ever soak seeds before planting them?  Do you notice quicker germination?

Comparing Overwintering Spinach

February 22nd, 2011

Last fall I planted two different types of spinach in one of my low tunnels. It was covered with greenhouse plastic, that’s it, no inner row cover. I was interested to see how the two varieties would survive the winter. As you can see, they both looked pretty good last fall when I covered the raised bed.

They two types I planted were:

‘Catalina’ Spinach – Tender, flat, deep green oval leaves with a delicate flavor perfect for salads. Fast growing, heat tolerant and extremely disease resistant. Seed source Renee’s Garden

‘Giant Winter’ Spinach – elected for cold hardiness. Dark green, glossy leaves are slightly savoyed. Appropriate as a flat baby leaf variety as well as winter full size. A heavy yielding variety recommended for fall crops, winter greenhouse production, or over-wintering outdoors under mulch. Seed source Sand Hill Preservation.


Since ‘Giant Winter’ is specifically bred to be a cold tolerant variety and ‘Catalina’ advertises heat tolerance, I figured the ‘Giant Winter’ would come out ahead. Last week, on that 60 degree day, I took the plastic off the hoop house and was surprised to see that the ‘Catalina’ looked much better than the ‘Giant Winter’.

This could be because the seeds germinated much more quickly and it had about a week’s worth of growth on the ‘Giant Winter’, but I’m thinking it’s just as cold tolerant as it is heat tolerant. Regardless, it’s fascinating to grow different varieties of the same vegetable to see which ones will do best in you soil and climate. I have a few more varieties of spinach to try this summer and fall, it will be interested to see how they stack up to ‘Catalina’.

Have you found specific varieties that do better than others in your climate?

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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 moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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