April in the Garden
Chef Debbi will be presenting a seminar, ‘Al Fresco Mothers Day Brunch’, at the South Coast Plaza Garden Show on Sat. April 25th, 12:30 in the Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams home store. Chef will be talking about spring vegetables, edible flowers and demonstrating a ‘Microgreen and Baby Lettuce Salad with Spring Vegetables, Edible Flowers and a Pomegranate Vinaigrette’ and serving that along with a Seasonal Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart
The seminar is free but seating is limited.
What To Do in The Spring Garden in So. California
You can get another crop of spring vegetables, peas (in cooler climates), asparagus, spinach, lettuce and last chance to plant artichokes from seedlings.
Plant from certified organic ‘seeds’.
Spring and Early Summer
Plant early season, cherry, heirloom & indeterminate varieties
Choose plants that are stocky with a thick stem, about the size of a pencil. Don’t choose plants with flowers or fruit on it, your tomato plant needs to develop strong, deep roots before starting to flower. Remove lower leaves and plant the seedling up to the first two set of leaves. All those furry little things on the side of the stem will turn into roots for you.
Companion plants to tomatoes are carrots, basil, lettuce and parsley.
All kinds of beans! Bush, pole and dried beans for winter soups and stews.
Companion plants to beans are corn, potatoes, radish and carrots.
Plant pole beans at the base of the corn and squash around the beans.
Beets, Turnips, Carrots and Radish
All grow underground in loose soil and can be grown in less sunny areas of the garden.
All kinds of peppers can go in the ground, planting companions are spinach, basil and tomatoes.
Early squash can be planted but hold off on pumpkins until June if you want them for the fall holidays.
Cilantro, Basil, Thyme, Dill, Fennel, Chives and most herbs will do well now.
Watch out for runners and re-seeders such as mint, oregano, borage, lemon verbena and pineapple sage for a few.
Now is a good time to amend your soil for the long summer growing season.
What is Companion Planting
Two or more plant types as to be beneficial to each other. Companion planting will help with pest control, higher yields, healthier soil and to keep weeds away.
Some flowers (marigolds, nasturtiums) can act as trap crops to attract insects away from vegetable crops. Aromatic herbs (basil, rosemary, lavender, sage) repel many insects away from more susceptible plants (tomatoes)
Umbel flowers, dill, fennel, parsley attract beneficial insects to the garden. The large flower heads provide a place where they beneficials can land and rest while they feed. Be sure to plant extra around the garden and let them go to seed. You may get some volunteers the next year (from all the seed flying around) but you can just dig those up and transplant them, free plants!
3 sisters, corn, beans, squash. Plant corn and beans first, squash a couple of weeks later; beans feed nitrogen into the soil for both corn and squash, the squash leaves will protect the shallow roots of the corn and beans will grow up the corn stalks.
Basil and tomatoes are a classic example of companion planting. Plant carrots around the base of the tomatoes, they’ll be ready for harvest before the tomato plants go wild. No brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts) with tomatoes. No peppers or eggplant near or within the last year in the same spot. They are in the same family and can transfer soil born diseases.
Plant some of the umbel plants near tomatoes for help with hornworm which helps attract parasitic wasps and their larvae will feed on the hornworms.
Beans and potatoes.
While these grow together well don’t plant the beans near the corn as we talked about before. Another row of beans never hurt to have around so plant away from the squash and plant with potatoes. Potato doesn’t like squash, cucumbers or sunflowers.
Lettuce and radish
Both with tolerate less sun than 6 hrs. and the radish will be ready to harvest before lettuce starts getting big, neither one likes the heat.
Sunflowers & Pumpkins
A natural combination that get along well
The Irish in All of Us
Not all corned beef recipes are created equal. We’ve all had ‘just’ corned beef and we’ve all had ‘ok’ corned beef. But how many have had that juicy, tender corned beef that melts in your mouth? Well, the difference lies in cooking techniques and a few chosen ingredients.
The brisket (which becomes ‘corned’ beef after pickling), requires long slow cooking to break down the tough working muscle. A crockpot will do nicely or a large, heavy cast iron soup pot. I use my Le Crueset 7 qt. pot for all my braising, stewing and soup making. I like that it can hold lots of veggies to surround the meats and I also like the way it distributes heat evenly. It also can go into the refrigerator (after cooling) and then back onto the stove eliminating several dishwashing chores.
Next, I use only Guinness ale and water to cover the beef with. The dark Guinness gives the corned beef nice flavor and the alcohol tenderizes the roast as it cooks, much like using wine in a beef stew. (Yes, you can use Guinness in your beef stew for even better flavor!)
I add aromatic vegetables to the pot for the initial cooking period, removing them only before I add the vegetables that will be served alongside the meat. I use them to flavor the roast and the broth. Don’t cut them in small pieces or they will be tough to fish out when the time comes. You could also tie them in a cheesecloth (a bouquet garni) and then simply remove it before serving.
You’ll want to cook the meat slowly for a long period of time. Again the crockpot is ideal for this if you have a large enough one. Bring the corned beef and bouquet garni to a boil, skimming any foam that forms on the top. If you leave the foam some may sink down into the liquid and cause the beef to become bitter as it continues to cook. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to a slow simmer and cook for 45 minutes a pound. Hard-boiling will separate the muscle tissue and make the meat dry and stringy. Add the vegetables the last half hour of cooking and the cabbage the last 15 minutes.
For something different use Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage. I like to use the smaller ones cutting them in half so they cook a little faster. Add them at the same time you add the carrots and potatoes. If you don’t like cooked cabbage at all, serve some cole slaw on the side instead.
The Potato: One of EWG’s Dirty Dozen
By: Connie Rosemont (Only Organic)
The potato is a great food – calorie-dense and rich in nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium and manganese. It is America’s largest vegetable crop: the average American consumes 29 pounds of French fries a year and 142 pounds of potatoes overall.
Alas, the conventional potato tests positive for 35 different pesticides — more pesticides by weight than any other vegetable, according to EWG’s 2014 Dirty Dozen List. Some of these pesticides remain even after peeling and washing. Pesticides found on potatoes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program include:
— Six known or probable carcinogens
— 12 suspected hormone disruptors
— Seven neurotoxins
— Six developmental or reproductive toxins
— Nine honeybee toxins
More potatoes aren’t organic because of production challenges, says Nate Lewis, Crop and Livestock specialist with the Organic Trade Association.
Farmers who raise conventional potatoes take a “kill-down” step just before harvest, spraying their potato fields with an herbicide that kills all the green leafy vegetation. With the leaves gone, the potato goes into a finishing-off process that thickens the skin, rendering it less susceptible to injury and blemishes.
After farmers harvest conventional potatoes, they warehouse them for up to nine months and ship them, as retailers and processing centers need them. Conventional producers apply post-harvest fungicides and sprouting inhibitors during storage to retard the spread of small blemishes and bad spots from one potato. Not surprisingly, these pesticides applied during storage show up most frequently on residue tests.
Organic standards enforced by the USDA bar organic farmers from using most field and storage pesticides. Organic farmers must work harder to store their potatoes for months without fungicides and sprout inhibitors. As a result, they face significantly larger hurdles than conventional producers in large-scale potato farming.
The hurdles of raising storage crops organically on a large scale might consign organic potatoes always to a small niche market. However, buying organic potatoes means that those farmers who decide to try organic potatoes will find a market for their efforts.
How To Grow Potatoes:
by Dan Lake, Peaceful Valley employee
Since I was 12 years old, my family has grown about 4 or 5 different varieties of potatoes in our garden at home every year. I would love to brag about my tater planting abilities, and with all of that experience one would think that I was a spud-growing expert, but after reflecting on what I knew, I came to a different conclusion: I devoted most of my time to harvesting and eating the delicious potatoes and have a lot to learn about the process of planting them!
Now that I have my own garden, I’ve done some research, talked to a friend who happens to be a farmer, and compiled some good tips below.
Crop Rotation: When planting potatoes from season to season, they should be kept on a 3-year rotating cycle in terms of location in your garden. This means, 3-4 suitable sites are needed if you want to grow potatoes every year, rotating the site where you plant every season.
Soil & Sun: When it comes to soil, potatoes are not picky. They are adaptable and will usually produce a decent crop even when the soil conditions are less than perfect. What they do require, however, is as much sun as possible because of how aggressive their root systems are, so keep that in mind when picking your spot(s) to plant.
Preparing Seed Potatoes: When you have your seed potatoes (potatoes certified for growing), set them somewhere where they will be exposed to light and warmth (between 60 and 70F). This will help them to start sprouting. A day or two before planting, use a clean knife to slice the larger potatoes into smaller pieces that contain at least 1 or 2 “eyes” or buds. Each seed should be approximately 1 1/2-2 inches square, and the smaller potatoes may be planted whole. In the next day or so, your seed potato pieces will form thick calluses over the cuts, to help prevent it from rotting once planted.
Planting Seed Potatoes: After you have trenched a 4’” deep furrow, plant the seed potato pieces or small potatoes 4” deep in the furrow about 12” apart and cover lightly with soil. The soil should be evenly moist, but not wet or soggy. If the soil is water logged when you dig, your seed potatoes will probably rot before they even get started. Depending on how cold it gets in your area, it might be a good idea to put a layer of mulch or straw on top of the furrow for a little extra frost protection. Two to four months later, I hope you will be enjoying some of the most delicious potatoes ever!
You can also reference our Potato Planting & Growing Guide online.