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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Keep it Growing

Cultivating More Food at Both Ends of the Growing Season...

Earlier this spring, I was finishing up the final bit of last year's cabbage (grown in the garden of friends in Havillah), and I noticed that the base had sprouted roots. "Hmmm..." I thought. "Roots..." I could not resist, so I put it in a pot in the house and watered it. Soon after, leaves emerged.

Amazingly, the plant continued sprouting and has been growing robust yet tender leaves, a most wonderful surprise when the garden is just starting to take off. I think this is going to be a new tradition! It provides a great source for early spring foraging at salad-making time.

The cabbage head spent the winter in my fridge, and I ate from it throughout that time. Imagine this much life coming from a wee little root base! I am not concerned about getting another cabbage "head" -- I am more than satisfied with these wonderful leaves!

I have done this with celery also (planting the base after eating the rest of the plant), although the celery has never looked as vibrant as this cabbage does. 

And of course there is the joy of overwintering sweet peppers, and eating red ones mid-June! This is a lipstick pepper from Harris Dunkelberger's seed, when he had the Good Seed Company (local seed from Chesaw, WA).

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I'm always looking for ways to extend the productivity of established plants. I was really happy with the celery last fall, which was growing in the aspen hugelkultur hotbed and continued to produce through the end of October (when the above photo was taken). It's an exciting process to see which plants can do well in early spring and into autumn, and where they seem to grow best. The aspen hotbed had many thousands of tons of manure and hay dumped into it along with the aspen logs, so it is undoubtedly my warmest garden bed. It's also at the south facing edge, and the hill drops off below it, creating more exposure to the sun.

Above is the part of the aspen hotbed bed in which the celery was growing, at the end of last summer.

It's good to think about the fall garden now, so that I can be sure to get seeds in the ground on time for the plants to be mature in September/October.

The swiss chard and daikon radishes also flourished in the autumn garden last year. I want to be sure to get some of both established for fall again this year!

What are your favorite plants for producing food at the extreme ends of the growing season?

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