Cover Crops

Green manure is not fresh out of the horse. In fact, it’s not even manure. It’s another name given to cover crops, or crops that are planted for one reason only: to benefit garden soil. Think of it as a grow-your-own organic fertilizer, literally. Cover crops also stabilize soil and attract beneficial bugs, providing them with food and shelter.

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Tilling Your Garden – Go Deep!

One of the best things you can do for your brand-new garden before you plant a single seed is to double till your patch. We don’t mean till it twice along the surface, we mean till it twice as deep. About 2 feet deep. Urban and suburban soil has been covered with lawn, compacted and neglected below the surface. If you want a bountiful harvest from fertile soil, you have to peel off the lawn and dig deep to bring your soil back to life.

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Growing Crops: Currants

Most people are only familiar with the dried version of the black currant, sold in boxes alongside raisins in the supermarket. Smaller and a little more tart/tangy than raisins, they make a flavorful addition to baked goods and hot cereals. The fresh fruits are a tasty alternative to grapes and are ideal for making preserves.

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Growing Crops: Chard

Leaf beet (or Perpetual spinach), Rainbow chard, Ruby chard, Seakale beet, Spinach beet, Swiss chard…’tis all a variation of the same vegetable, a close relative to the beet. It is a sturdy, savory green that tastes equally delicious raw in salads as it does wilted as a side dish – or baked into a particularly delicious strata dish involving eggs, cheese, sausage, and bread.

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Growing Crops: Beans (Bush and Vine)

…as opposed to growing shelling beans. These are the green (or yellow, or purple) beans you steam or sauté as a nice side dish, or put in that holiday green bean/mushroom soup/fried onion casserole every year.

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Growing Crops: Artichokes

Artichokes, also called Globe Artichokes, can be grown as an annual or a perennial (ideally as part of an edible landscape feature), depending on how much space you have available and how you prefer to grow them. Annual artichokes require a minimum of 100 days without frost, are planted in the Spring and harvested in the Fall. Perennial artichokes can be planted in Spring or Fall and harvested during either season, as well. Every 3 or 4 years carefully pull them out of the ground with the help of your garden fork, divide them, and then replant.

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Growing Crops: Cucumbers

A salad isn’t a salad without cucumbers, in our opinion. Thin-sliced, skin-on. There are a number of varieties to choose from, depending on the space you have available and the purpose for which you are growing your cucumbers. After all, pickles are simply puckered up cucumbers.

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Garden Seeds – Sowing Indoors

If you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season, starting your vegetable seeds indoors will not only extend the growing season, but will also protect your plants from harsh temperatures while they are still extremely vulnerable. If you live in a warmer climate, starting your vegetable seeds indoors will give you a head start on the growing season so that you will end up with a larger harvest. Keep in mind that you don’t want to start the seeds too far ahead. 6-8 weeks before the projected date of the last frost for your area is ideal.

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Growing Crops: Cress

Cress is a catch-all term for three very different delicate yet spicy little salad greens. Despite the name, all three are entirely different species. Watercress (nasturtium officianale) is probably the one you’re most familiar with. It requires an aquatic environment to properly grow (such as the banks of a stream or pond), therefore is not recommended for the urban organic garden. Winter Cress (barbarea verna) – also called Upland Cress – will grow in regular soil and is a cool-season plant that can be harvested clear through the winter.

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Growing Crops: Chicory, Radicchio, Endive, Escarole…and Frisee, too!

Why so many different plants in one post? Well, they’re all members of the same family (asteraceae) and genus (cichorium) and have remarkably similar planting requirements and growing conditions. Chicory belongs to the species intybus, and radicchio is a chicory variety. Endive belongs to the species endivia, and escarole and frisee are endive varieties. All of them are cool weather vegetables that tend to bolt during the heat of summer. They make it possible to enjoy salad all year long.

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