Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rutless in 2012

A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.
~Welsh proverb

Ruts are easy to fall into.
I don’t mean the kind along the road but the kind that keeps you from trying new things.

Today as I am watching the snow fall on my Tuscan kale and Brussels Sprouts, I am deciding which new and which old favorite varieties of vegetables to grow this year. So far I’ve got 3 new to try.

With our Pacific Northwest growing season, there are many things to consider when selecting what to grow. For one thing, we have a short growing season so varieties needing over 100 days to mature are not necessarily going to make it before the season changes and the plant begins to decline.

Another, being only a mile from the water, the temps in my garden don’t necessarily get hot enough to ripen many vegetables like in those gardens more inland. With both those factors, melons, peppers and many others just will never produce and ripen for me. Some veggies need a certain number of heat units for full maturity. Some summers that isn’t a problem but for the last two it has been.

All that to say we are unpredictable in the weather department so tried and true varieties take much of the frustration out of gardening. Not a bad idea, as a matter of fact I’ve said many times on this blog that learning what works and what doesn’t from the more experienced gardeners around you is a great way to go.

However, experimentation can lead you to find something you’d never have found otherwise. For instance I’ve settled into only growing Stupice tomatoes for several years now. Stupice, with 65 days to maturity, is an heirloom variety that grows and ripens consistently in both sunny, warm conditions as well as in our often wet, cloudy and cool summers. That’s early for a mid size tomato so I’m getting ripe fruit sooner than most. While perusing my Nichols Garden Nursery catalog this year I’ve decided to try Willamette, a hybrid developed by Oregon State University for short season areas like ours. A medium size tomato with a 70 day maturation, it claims “good production in spite of false springs, late chills, damp or dry summers”. How can it fail I wonder, so I’m going to plant it instead of Stupice this year and see what I think of it.

Over this past winter I also have been preparing more squash for our meals. I’ve never been a fan of squash, with the exception of zucchini (courgettes) but Shari’s blog has peaked my interest in cooking with squash since she writes about how healthy it is. I’ve found I like acorn squash more than delicata and butternut, so I thought I’d try growing Sweet Reba, an acorn bush variety with a 90 day maturation.

I’m also going to try cucumber Rocky which I found in Territorial Seed catalog. At 48 days this hybrid is a tad earlier than my old standby Marketmore at 55 days. Rocky is a one bite size seedless variety.

Last but not least…the bees. This year I wrapped the beehive against the coldest of winter temps. The only warming efforts I’ve taken in winters past is to strap on a plywood wind break and plug in 2 strands of Christmas lights (the old style that heat up) under the box for some bottom warmth. It’s not a lot but it can add a few degrees to keep a tender perennial alive so I do it for the bees too. Beware if you try this, you may get laughed at by some beekeepers but I didn’t care when they laughed at me. Mine survived that winter when many of theirs didn’t. Dale, my beekeeping friend down the street convinced me to try a wrap this year. He found 4’ x 8’ (1.21 x 2.43 m) sheet polystyrene at the hardware store that cut down would be perfect to use. I opted for the 1 ½ inch thickness. Hive wrapping is a common practice in the upper Midwest and Northeastern U.S. but not so much here. In our temperate climate with mild winters, depending on who you ask, some beeks will wrap and some adamantly will not, believing a wrap gives the bees a false sense of warmth with detrimental results. I’ve never done it, even told new beekeepers not to do it because of the death stories I’d heard. That said, I have given it much thought over the years. If you consider the natural cavity of a dead, hollow tree is probably inches thick and that is a natural cavity honeybees will use in the wild. The standard Langstroth hive body box is ¾ of an inch (1.78cm) thick. The BeeMax polystyrene hive bodies available from Dadant claim better insulation in both summer and winter, and are thicker than a wood hive box but I can’t find the actual dimension in the catalog. Sooo… I decided to give a wrap a try. I may only leave the wrap on in the most frigid of temps…that is yet to be determined.

It’s a new year. What will you try new in your garden?

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Sarcococca confuse, Heather (Erica carnea ‘springwood white’), winter pansies

Authors photos


Cindy said...

WOW look at you go!!!

those bees are going to be cozy as can bee *harhar* and I can't wait to see how your squash, tomatoes and cucumbers do!

as for me...ANYTHING I do this year in my new back yard will be new and rewarding so I had better get too it!

Joan said...

Yes, you have a blank slate to start a new garden with! That can be soooo much fun. The sky's the limit! Have fun!