Lots of people are familiar with the artichoke at the grocery store. The artichoke head is nothing more than the bud of the artichoke flower. With heavy feeding and watering you can even coax your artichoke to produce those great big round heads now selling commercially from the globe artichoke variety. Sometimes, however, forcing large buds are done at the expense of flavor. But even without much care, the artichoke can grow excellent buds for eating. Some people feel smaller artichokes are more flavorful. There are even varieties now available that are best grown as annuals and pulled after harvesting.
The artichoke is a bold plant that not only can provide you with many delicious meals, but will still reward you with giant electric blue-purple, brush-like flowers when the last of the artichoke buds are left un-cropped and allowed to open into these curious, but showy flowers. Some artichoke varieties — especially those with the rich purple coloring more commonly grown in France or Italy — are even decorative in bud. They make interesting dried flower arrangements, too. You can spray paint the dried flower heads or let them stay natural, removing all the fluffy parachute-equipped seeds before they go floating off around your household.
The artichoke likes plenty of full, baking sun and will grow willingly with less water than many other vegetables (though it won’t object to more water, either). Watch out for the aphids that cluster beneath the scales of the flower buds. They will draw lots of ants, which will then farm more aphids. I recommend spraying with water and using Safer’s horticultural soap. Feel free to release the dramatic artichoke from the vegetable garden to the flower garden or even use it as a solitary focal point. (Be prepared to disguise it after it has faded because there is a pretty raggedy period between the end of flowing and when the new foliage comes up).
A tough plant for drier, hotter climates, the artichoke has impressive leaves that can almost look tropical. With its fast-growing, wide-spreading habit it can fill an empty space quickly with decorative foliage, fascinating flowers and tasty, nutritious buds. This is one vegetable that is probably best left OUT of the raised vegetable garden as it doesn’t need the coddling most other vegetables prefer and it will take up too much room. And since it should look great in many other parts of the landscape, growing artichokes in the garden is both easy and ornamental.
Make room for garlic in the garden
Whether you grow edibles or not, it’s easy to make room for garlic in the garden. Garlic takes up little space, can be slipped between other plants and is easy to grow. It is one of the most healthy and versatile edibles you can grow and has extensive use in the kitchen.
Yes, you can grow your own garlic. And it is pretty easy to grow. Although you can plant the cloves from store-bought garlic, you will fare better by ordering a properly cultivated strain that is adapted to your local climate. Here are some tips on growing garlic that should help you grow yours successfully.
Softneck varieties are the garlic varieties that have flexible neck stalks and are braided most easily. The bulbs are hardy and if planted at least 6 weeks before hard frosts, usually can survive cold winters, and usually don’t send up blooming stalks so there is no worry about cross-pollination should you decide to save the seeds. Softneck varieties will store for longer periods of time than hardneck garlic.
Hardneck varieties are harder to braid as the junction of bulb and dried leaves tends to snap off easily. This type of garlic produces smaller bulbs with larger cloves and many people think they have a better flavor. Hardneck garlic plants bloom with tall shoots and the typical allium-type spherical flower head. You can allow your plant to bloom or pinch out the flowering stalk as it begins to form instead. The goal in all garlic is to encourage heavy leaf production as that will create larger bulbs when the foliage dies back. Most hardneck varieties are a better choice for warm and hot climates.
Either type of garlic can be grown in cooler climates. In warmer winter climates, garlic can be planted year round. If you order your garlic from mail order catalogs, it is usually shipped in the autumn or early winter.
When shopping for garlic for your garden, look for big bulbs. The larger the clove you plant, the larger your future bulb is likely to grow. Give your garlic plenty of sunshine and though garlic is not fussy about soil, a richer soil with added compost will increase the size of the garlic you harvest at the end of the season. Regular watering is best.
Plant about 6″ deep and space them about 6″ or more apart. They can be grown closer together , but if you space them wider they will grow better and you will have more room to dig them up when ready without spearing the bulbs.
If you have limited space, garlic can be grown in an herb garden or even grown in pots. You can always make room to grow garlic.
Also see: Make your own garlic oil (and check the warnings in the comment section)
Whether you want to grow green, yellow or purple beans, climbers or bush beans, snap or dried beans, you will want to give your beans a good rich soil with plenty of compost dug in. You might even want to side dress your planting with a little fertilizer. Even though the bean family (Leguminosae) has roots that actually fix nitrogen in the soil, most beans will benefit from adding a bean inoculant or a little nitrogen to the soil. Plant beans at a depth that is double their size, and keep soil moist yet well-drained. Place them at least three inches apart if you do not have specific directions to follow on your seed packet.
Beans do not like the cold so wait until you can be sure the temperature will stay above 40′F at the coldest time of day (or night). You can start them indoors while the weather is cool since they are easy to transplant. In fact, beans are excellent for growing in big pots outdoors on balconies or patios. One exception to the warmth-loving bean family is the fava bean. This one is fine for growing even in the winter in low-frost climates.
Beans love full sun and will take all the sunshine you want to give them. Plant your beans in rows for the best productivity, but feel free to use some of the climbing varieties to decorate trellises, fences or walls.
Use high quality seed that will not carry diseases. Wet soil can cause rot, mildew and fungus, and there are a number of insects that can bother beans, especially in more moist climates. In dry climates, there are fewer pests, but if summers get too hot and dry, flowers have difficulty setting seed and plants will not produce big crops. Watch out for rabbits and deer if you have them in your neighborhood. They LOVE beans! (You might consider protecting your beans with wire cages or netting.)
Beans are best rotated with other crops. Since the roots do fix nitrogen in the soil, leafy green vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, etc. will flourish well planted where last season’s beans grew. You will also find your beans will grow better if they are not planted on the same site year after year.
Beans are fun to grow from seed. The hardest part is to decide what kind of beans you want to grow. There are enough varieties to fill a whole vegetable garden!
In the recent California Spring Trials a new variety of tomato was unveiled. The newly developed ‘Tomaccio’ tomato plant is cultivated just like any other tomato and can be grown in the garden outdoors or in large pots. It is a handsome plant that grows small tomatoes that can be eaten like any other fresh tomato. But what makes the ‘Tomaccio’ plant unique is that you can allow those tomatoes to dry right on the vine. These plants grow easy home dried tomatoes without any special efforts. Wait until the sun dries them right on the vine.
The dried tomatoes on the ‘Tomaccio’ plant can be cropped and used in cooking, salads, or nibbled on as a snack. These home dried tomatoes are both easy to grow, dry and use. They have a very sweet flavor and make an excellent sauce or dip for an appetizer. Try growing this new variety of tomato for something new and different in your vegetable garden.
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