Wednesday, June 25

My Grade (So Far) on The Growing Challenge

Ever notice that mostly-green badge on my sidebar, just below the picture of my exasperating strawberry thief--er, Garden Assistant? It's a link to The Growing Challenge, which is a cool thing started over on a blog called Elements in Time - Creating Edible Landscape. The challenge is to grow one new fruit or vegetable that you haven't grown before, starting from seed.

Isn't this a cool idea? I'm pretty sure that I discovered The Growing Challenge thanks to Gina from My Skinny Garden, but I see Dig This Chick, Susan Harris, and a bunch of other garden bloggers I "know" on the roster, too. Alas, so far I am earning an "incomplete" as my grade in this challenge: While I'm growing plenty of new things in my veggie garden this year, NONE of them are from seed.

Take this kohlrabi, for example. I picked up a 3-pack of these at a local garden center to round out a flat of veggies that I bought in desperation when I realized that it was Memorial Day weekend and I had not started ANY seeds for my garden yet:

I have no idea how I'm going to eat these kohlrabi or even when to harvest them, but they're growing pretty well... and having them in my garden reminds me of my grandfather, who used to grow them every year. (He would eat them sliced and salted, like raw potato, per my grandmother.) So they're a fun addition to my garden, but they definitely do not count toward The Growing Challenge.

Neither do the 'Red Lake' currants, 'Bush Pickle' cucumbers, multiple hot and medium-hot peppers, Florence fennel, red cabbage, or any of my other new edibles, because they were all transplanted instead of seed-started. And the stuff I have started from seed (beets, beans, and so forth) are things I do every year. So they don't count, either.

I'm not throwing in the towel just yet, though. I know that a lot of things can be sown throughout the summer for a fall harvest, so I'll be working on that in the next few weeks. And in fact, I just found "okra" on two of the many fall vegetable planting lists you can access online, so maybe I can even plant seeds from that packet of 'Red Burgundy' okra that I picked up this spring after all...

Does anyone else do a fall vegetable garden? Hints, tips, tricks, and advice like, "don't try that variety of Veg X for fall planting, try this variety instead," are all more than welcome in the comments here. This is going to be a first for me, and I REALLY want it to be a success, so I'll need all of the help I can get!


Unknown said...

Kiim, I don't plant a vegetable garden other than tomatoes and herbs--maybe next year--but I can tell you that kohlrabi is good in stirfries, and the younger that you harvest, the better--more tender. They're a bit like broccoli, and I quite like them.

Unknown said...

Jodi you're actually the second person who recommended putting the kohlrabi into stir-fry! (My gardening friend Dave, who brought me a big bouquet of zinnias last year and made it onto the blog, is the other. Just this morning, in fact, when he stopped by my office.)

I'm sold. So one for raw eating, one for stir-fry... that leaves one more for any other suggested use! :)

Annie in Austin said...

Years ago we grew broccoli as a fall crop in Illinois - think we got the seed from Park. You mentioned cabbage transplants - are you already growing broccoli, Kim? Or could it be new?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

EAL said...

Oh this is easy for me. I fail completely. But I do vow to better support my local small farmers.

We who grow no veggies salute you.

Unknown said...

Annie, not only have I never before purchased broccoli seed... but I've never grown broccoli in my garden at all, I'm ashamed to say!

I just checked, though, and there it was on the fall vegetable garden lists. (That surprised me to see it there--same with the okra, which I thought would need a longer growing period.) I love to eat broccoli, so I think I need to find myself some seeds for that now. :)

Unknown said...

Elizabeth, I think there are a few things you could grow in that shady yard of yours... but I salute you for supporting your local farmers all the same. :)

Gina said...

Kim - I'm so far behind on my Growing Challange posts! Thanks for reminding me. I should get to that pronto!

Kylee Baumle said...

I didn't know about the Growing Challenge thing. Is it too late to get in on it? I always grow at least one new thing every year. Yes, from seed. This year, it's burgundy okra, purple beans that turn green when you cook them, red sweet corn, pole beans (in addition to my usual bush type) and Brussels sprouts.

gintoino said...

I'm growing a fall vegatable garden this year for the first time (actually this year was the first for any vegetable garden ;-)) I'm thinking of growing brassicas (the whole range...from kale to broccoli , to cauliflower....) turnips radishes,and I will try sowing early peas. Then again, we garden in very different climates, but I think any of the brassicas would do for you. I vote for broccoli ;-)

Frances, said...

Hi Kim, I missed out on that growing challenge also, but like Kylee have tried some new things from seed this year. Eggplant, because Carol at Maydreams said that the holes from flea beetles won't affect the fruit, one looks okay. Also the purple beans that turn green when cooked, magda squash, sugar snap peas, onions from seed, globe basil, cucumbers and carrots. I didn't do many veggies until this year besides tomaotes, peppers and herbs. I will be looking back for tips about the fall garden, though. Thanks.

LYC said...

That you're doing a vegetable garden at all is a fine fine thing so keep your chin up.
Silly of me, but I neglected to consult the fall vegetable list before planting broccoli back in May. Another lesson under my basic gardener belt. I now see that it's pretty much all ready to pick right now and not one bit happy with the hot weather. The salad and peas (grown from seed) are right on time and I'm now greatly encouraging for another fall round...maybe something completely different?

Anonymous said...

Kim: You will have no problems growing fall vegetables. You can seed peas, beets and carrots for a fall crop and also start some broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy either in the ground or in cell packs for planting at the end of July (I think we are in similar zones). Also, seed a row or a bed of lettuce for a fall crop. I did start some pumpkins, Jarrahdale, from seed this year for something new. Your kohlrabi looks great. I have never grown it but did buy one at the Farmer's Market. I will try it sliced and salted for lunch, just like your grandpa! I am trying to think of the veggie garden as an ongoing project rather than 'finished'!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I am with EAL in that I salute you for even thinking about growing veggies from seeds. As close to veggies I get are a few Blackberries, which reseed themselves, and some herbs. I do like to go to the Farmers Market to get really fresh veggies. Yummm

Anonymous said...

How about trying some of those green salad leaves? They keep bringing new ones out which look quite interesting!

Unknown said...

Gina, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who is a bit behind! :)

Kylee, I don't think it's too late. In fact, according to the weekly recap posts, people are joining in all the time. I think you should go with it!

I love the purple beans, but I've never even seen all-red sweet corn. I hope you'll show some pictures of that--and your burgundy okra. We can trade notes on spring vs. fall planting of the okra. :)

gintoino, I definitely think that I'm going to do the broccoli. I need to get to the store to buy some soon, though! Kale, Swiss Chard, and a few other greens are already my favorites. :)

Frances, isn't eggplant a pretty plant? I love the purplish hue on the leaves. I can't wait to hear how the onions do from seed for you--I always set out the starts instead of trying the seeds, and I don't know why. Laziness?

LYC, thanks. :) Broccoli is a good spring plant, but I think that you can start that in April, even, to keep it from being too unhappy in the heat. I definitely need to see about doing a fall sowing of peas, too, since I have the seed--thanks for the reminder!

Layanee, I LOVE beets and carrots--I do sow those all throughout the summer, in fact. Beets are my favorite, since you can saute the greens in olive oil and garlic while you're waiting for the root part to roast. Yum. :)

Cell packs for some of those things isn't a bad idea. I have little pint pots that I could probably use for starting, now that you mention it. Let me know how you like the kohlrabi that way--I'll put forth a report later, too.

Greenbow Lisa, mmmm. I have blackberries, too. There's nothing like blackberries fresh from the garden, warmed in the sun! And mine do some traveling in the garden, too, even though the thornless ones aren't supposed to be spreaders as much. (Yeah, right! Tell that to mine, please! lol.)

Unknown said...

anonymous, you snuck in on me as I was responding! Lettuce is a great idea, too--my spring plantings haven't fared too well for some reason in the past, so maybe fall seeding of lettuce is the way to go for me.

You know, at this point, I'm getting just as excited about the fall garden as I was about the summer garden! :)

Muum said...

Keep us all posted on the fall garden, I've never tried one, so a vicarious experience would be good. I am growing swiss chard for the first time, but not from seed. So far they are beautiful and edible, so I am glad!

Frances, said...

Hi Kim, the reason to start onions from seed is to keep the plant from flowering which is caused by a hot then cool spring, exactly the kind we always have. Half of the sets flowered, ruining the onion. None of the seed started ones did, but they are not ready to harvest either, they will be later. We have harvested some of the sets, the tops are yellow and flat on the ground. I will report back on how the seed onion taste, we planted red cippolinis.

Anonymous said...

I'm not participating in the challenge, but I am growing a lot of new veggies from seed this year -- Royal Purple Bush beans, cucumbers, zucchini (1st time from seed), and Little Marvel peas among others. I tried snow peas as a fall crop last year, but I think I started too early last summer and they withered in the heat. Keep us posted on your progress!

SMC said...

I don't "do" the vegetables. The boyfriend does, and all from seed. Every year he does kohlrabi and my favorite way to eat it is just sliced raw and dipping in something yogurty with fresh garlic from the garden. It beats cooking your vegetables on a hot night.

My big challenge is to collect seeds from annuals and then plant them the next year. My purple hyacinth bean is giving me the cold shoulder, but I am mighty impressed with a kale I allowed my boyfriend to plant in my flower beds- it overwintered and is now going to seed. Usually the deer eat them in the fall before I have a chance to collect seed. I will be gathering them very soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm working on a fall garden, too. I've got some broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage seedlings out in the garden, but I think I started them too early. I'm going to start more (from seed) this week and have them ready as backup. I'm also looking into fall peas, which I think need to go in in a couple of weeks. The chart here: is helping me a lot.

kate smudges said...

I have fond memories of eating thick slices of kohlrabi. It has such a satisfying crunch. It used to be a staple in gardens here, but now I rarely see it.

Can't offer advice on veggie gardening since this is the first year that I am growing many. I started swiss chard from seed - I think I signed up for the Growing Challenge - totally forgot about it.

lisa said...

That challenge sounds like fun! If I weren't so frazzled and behind in EVERYTHING, I'd love to try. Maybe next year, but I'll enjoy checking your progress for sure! :) (Although I DID start some 'Highlander' ornamental millet for the birds to eat...does that count?)

Unknown said...

Muum, the Swiss chard IS really pretty, isn't it? I've only grown the 'Rhubarb' one with the red veins, but it's stunning backlit. And delicious. :)

Frances, thank you for the information... I didn't know that about onions. Glad to learn something new--and looking forward to the report on the cippolinis.

Heather, this really seems to be the year for the purple beans, doesn't it?! Good info about the snow peas, I'll keep that in mind. Maybe I'll make sure that they get some afternoon shade. Hmm.

SMC, you had my attention at "fresh garlic from the garden." YUM. I'm really kicking myself for not having planted garlic last fall... and it's my own darn fault.

I want to save some annual seeds, too, but I'm always amazed at the reseeders, too. I have quite a few volunteer snapdragons in my garden this year, even though I SWEAR that I was good about deadheading them last year. (I've just been lazy about weeding this spring, I admit!) lol.

seeded, I really do like that chart, too. The other one I liked was the one from Purdue, here. But I like that one because it's geared for a similar climate to mine.

Kate, I do believe that you signed up for the growing challenge, too. :) Hardly anyone does grow kohlrabi, but at the garden center I used to ask people who picked it up why they grew it and how they used it. I am wondering now if I could use it in place of jicama in some salad-y recipes, based on its description here in these comments?

Lisa, did you say frazzled and behind in everything? Hmm... you just described me to a T!!!! lol. (And I think that the ornamental millet for the birds is way cool... but no, doesn't count for the Growing Challenge! :)

Anonymous said...

Every year I tell myself that I should actually plan a separate vegetable garden but end up plunking down tomato, cucumber, zucchini and pepper seed wherever I find a patch of space in my cutting garden. So much for organization. One day, I plan on getting around to doing it properly. Fran

Entangled said...

Frazzled and far behind describes me perfectly. The last of the spring seedlings are going to be planted today! Then I can start thinking about fall vegetables. Well, actually, I have been thinking about them - I plan to grow carrots, beets, green onions, kale and spinach.

I planted Swiss chard for the first time this spring. Taste-wise we think it's OK as long as I combine it with lots of other ingredients, but the ornamental value is great.

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

I haven't taken the challenge because I don't need yet another challenge in my life. But I do usually try to start one new/unusual veggie each year. This year I'm growing tomatillos cause I love that green salsa at the Mexican restaurants.

I am fascinated to watch the little round globes grow, which I assume will eventually become the papery outside become filled with the fruit.

And I'm pleased that whatever was muching on the plants have not been able to keep up with the growth!

Robin at Bumblebee

AR said...

I grew brassicae last year and was able to harvest through the fall and even early winter. I would recommend not getting a mix, and if you plant late (like August) plan an early variety, which will mature faster, though it won't last as long in your cupboard. Late varieties take longer to mature, so you ideally want to plant them out in the spring.

Also, many varieties of green onions are cold hardy and fast-growing. More specifically, the 'Evergreen' variety. And most greens and lettuce like cooler conditions. Mesclun is super easy to grow.

I'm working on getting a steady supply of food from my garden, although some of this isn't possible w/o a coldframe or greenhouse.

bs said...

i must be your evil twin! i'm growing some things from seeds, but they're all seeds i saved from stuff i've already grown. ah well... next year! maybe we can trade and grow new things from each other's yards! how diy is that?

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