This year at the Research and Development farm we grew a lot of popcorn. We’ll be doing taste trials once the cobs all dry down. In the mean time we are playing! Did you know you can put a whole ear of popcorn in the microwave and pop it right off the cob? Simply put the cob into a paper lunch sack, roll up the end a few times making tight folds (for extra hold, use a piece of masking tape. Place the bag on its side in microwave for 2-3 minutes. Stay near the microwave and listen closely; times vary by machine. Stop the microwave as soon as the popping slows down, it burns quickly if left in too long. The popcorn will pop right off the cob and fill your bag! The kernels at the tip of the cob tend not to pop. You can either break this off prior to popping, or expect to see a few remaining on the cob after popping. We trialed our Mauveless variety and it works great. Try it for yourself, I guarantee your family and friends will be impressed!
Snow Crown Hybrid Cauliflower
There is one thing you must know about cauliflower before we go any further: cauliflower is temperamental. It only does well in consistently cool weather, is fussy about soil, and needs a near constant supply of water and nutrients. But we never back away from a challenge- so if you love the sweet taste of cauliflower (I love mine sliced thin and roasted in the oven), let’s equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to successfully grow cauliflower.
Cauliflower needs at least 6 hours of full sun per day, if not more.
Cauliflower prefers nitrogen and potassium rich, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter to help retain moisture. The pH must be between 6.5 and 6.8 to prevent clubroot disease.
Apply Gurney’s Vegetable Food before planting, and again after the plants develop new leaves, and again before heads form.
Plant fall crops about 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost, but be ready to shade your cauliflower plants if they need to be protected from any surprise heat waves.
Cauliflower should be planted about 18 inches to ensure plenty of room to grow.
To avoid stress, plants need even moisture. A layer of organic mulch will keep soil cool and moist and prevent weeds from sprouting.
A Little Help
Cauliflower is supposed to naturally self-blanch, where the leaves naturally curl over the head and shade it, ensuring it will be white and tender at harvest. Keep an eye on your heads and provide a little assistance if needed by pulling leaves up over the head and fastening them with a clothespin.
Interested in growing your own cauliflower? Try Gurney’s Snow Crown Hybrid Cauliflower or for something completely different, Veronica Hybrid Cauliflower. Any tips for us on cauliflower success? Let us know in the comments.
When browsing through your seed catalogs, you may notice some terminology that can be confusing. Seed is often categorized as open pollinated (op), heirloom or hybrid. Understanding these descriptions is especially important if you plan to save your own seed.
Open pollinated (OP)- These varieties can produce seed that is true to type, or that will grow the same plant again. It’s important to keep in mind that some species can easily cross-pollinate with each other, so their seed will only be true to type if varieties are isolated from each other.
Heirloom- These are open pollinated varieties that have been passed down within communities or families. Usually these varieties have been around for many years and continue to be treasured for great flavor, and adaptability and vigor. All heirlooms are open pollinated (OP), but not all open pollinated varieties are considered to be heirlooms.
Hybrid- Seeds created by controlled cross pollinating between two chosen varieties. These are often referred to as F1 plants. Seed collected from these plants will not produce the same plant, or they are not true to type. Hybrids are usually created with specific goals in mind, such as increased disease resistance, more fruit production, better flavor, etc.
French Fingerling Potatoes
Growing up in the Midwest, I learned early on the value of the potato. No holiday was complete without several side dishes featuring potatoes. I remember when redskin potatoes first became readily available, then Yukon golds (how did we ever make mashed potatoes before yukons?). And just a few years ago I was delighted to find an array of small fingerling potatoes at my favorite market, so I could make a red, white, and blue potato salad (the blue was really purple). Two summers ago I decided to try my hand at growing potatoes because the little seed potatoes at the market looked so cute, and my grandma insisted they were easy to grow. And she was right- my kids loved harvesting the potatoes, and the novelty of walking outside and digging up some potatoes for dinner never wore off.
Planting and Harvesting
Potatoes prefer well drained, fine sandy soil, with a lot of organic matter mixed in. If your soil is less than potato ready, consider planting a cover crop the year before. Crop rotation is key with potatoes- yes, even in your own garden. To avoid issues such as scab disease, do not add too much manure to your seedbed, and also watch the soil pH: for potatoes, the pH should be 5.0 to 5.5. Once your plants are started, remember potatoes need constant moisture, so water regularly. Once your plants are about 6 inches tall, you need to hoe the dirt around the base of the plant in order to keep the root covered and support the plant. This helps keep the potato from getting sunburned- which makes them turn green and taste bitter. Hilling should happen every two weeks for proper potato protection. Two weeks after the vines have naturally died down, it’s time to dig up your potatoes. If your weather is still hot, immediately take harvested potatoes to a dark, cool place- any exposure to sun can cause your potatoes to turn green and they may rot. Potatoes can be stored for about 4 to 6 weeks; if you need to store them longer than that, they must be cured in a dark place (temperature between 60 and 65 degrees and a humidity of 85 percent or higher for 10 days); after they are cured they can be kept in a very cool (40 to 45 degrees) dark humid place for several months.
Interested in trying your hand at potato propagation? Gurney’s has a wide variety of potatoes for you to choose from. Have a favorite potato variety? Let us know in the comments!
A few interesting varieties to try:
Purple Viking Potatoes: purple skin, white flesh, super delicious.
German Butterball Potatoes: great for everything- baking, frying, mashing.
Gurney’s Choice Red Pontiac Potatoes: best for mashing.
There’s no substitute for the amazing taste of fresh, homegrown apples – so, of course, I always start craving them right when the growing season’s over. What do you do when it’s freezing outside and those insatiable taste buds demand a serving of apples? Reach for a jar of applesauce or butter! Just a little bit of work and planning ahead, and you’ll be able to enjoy your apple harvest well into the winter.
Canning is one of the simplest, most popular ways of preserving large quantities for long periods. If you like applesauce, you can prepare jars full at home in a matter of minutes, help yourself to as many servings as your tummy permits and preserve the rest to be savored for months afterward.
Here’s how you go about making the applesauce:
- Step one, wash the apples thoroughly in clean water.
- Next, slice each apple into four.
- Pick the largest kettle you can find (a smaller one will do if you aren’t using a lot of apples) and fill it with half a cup of water. This will prevent any risk of burning the apples.
- Place the kettle on the stove, fill in with the quartered apples and set the burner on high heat.
- Allow the apples to cook until they are mushy to touch. This will take some 20-30 minutes.
- Time to puree! Blend the cooked apples with an immersion type blender or simply mash them with a potato masher or a fork if you prefer your applesauce chunky.
- Add sugar/cinnamon/salt, allow it to cool.
- Serve alone or with waffles, pancakes, roasted potatoes or ice-cream.
Want to can your applesauce? Just a few more steps:
- Reheat the sauce to a boil, and stir often to prevent sticking.
- Fill jars with hot applesauce, leaving about a half inch at the top.
- Place your lids – use our Canning Tool Set for best results.
What’s your favorite way to use your apple harvest? Tell us in the comments!
One of the most obvious perks of growing your own food is the ability to bring the high-flavor, quality fruits and vegetables to every meal. But how do you savor this privilege when the days shorten and snow takes hold of the ground? It’s quite simple, by storing the produce. Potatoes, apples, carrots, squash and many other vegetables and fruits can be stored for 2 months (really!) to keep your taste buds happy and your body well-nourished until the next growing season.
Essentials of storing crops successfully
When it comes to storage, not all crops fare the same- there are varieties that’ll store better than others. Make sure to select these ‘good keepers’ when you’re picking crops for planting. You should time the planting in a way that your crops mature towards the end of season. Remember, crops harvested at their prime typically store better than the rest.
The first full-sized apple to fall off the tree usually indicates it’s time to harvest. You can harvest apples early if birds are a problem, or wait until just before the first frost. It’s always best to use a ladder when picking apples. Handle the fruits carefully to prevent bruising or bumping. Fruits with cuts and blemishes don’t store well, so feel free to bite into them, make apple sauce or use them in jams and desserts. Our Apple Parer/Corer/Peeler and Food Strainer and Sauce Maker will save both time and effort while getting the job done in perfect fashion. Place those perfect apples in trays or boxes lined with shredded newspaper and store them away in a cool, dark place.
Potato foliage will die back by the end of summer, signaling the time to dig out and cure them for storage. Lay out the tubers on clean newspaper sheets in a dark, well-ventilated place (with temperatures between 50-60 degrees F.) This will cause the skins to toughen up in within a couple of weeks. After a week or two, clean the tubers using dry cloth, removing dirt and pitching any damaged tubers. Place the spuds in ventilated baskets or boxes and cover them with newspaper or clean sheets to prevent the spread of rot. The ideal temperature for storing potatoes is 40-50 degrees F, and they should be kept in the dark.
Onions, just like potatoes, need to be cured before storage. And just like potatoes, their foliage will signal the right time to act- the leaves will flop back, which also tells you that they’ve stopped growing. Let the onions sit in the soil until the foliage has turned yellow and the necks have tightened. You can allow the harvested onions to sit on the soil for a couple of weeks. If, however, there’s a chance of rain of frost, promptly move them to a dry location and spread them out on the floor. Allow 2 weeks for curing. Once the skins have tightened and there’s no residual moisture on the leaves or stems, place them in mesh bags or baskets and store away in a cool, dark location. Temperatures between 45-50 degrees F are best for storing onions.
Despite the bad rap they get from the elementary-aged set, Brussels sprouts offer a great variety of uses! Few vegetables are quite as versatile or fun to cook. Brussels sprouts belong to the cabbage family and are a wonderful source of Vitamins A and C, iron, folate, potassium and dietary fiber. Plus, they have some amazing health benefits…
Health benefits of Brussels sprouts
- Brussels sprouts contain a phytochemical called Sulforaphane that is believed to have amazing anticancer properties.
- Brussels sprouts are a good source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that’s believed to aid DNA repair in cells and block the growth of cancerous cells.
- As indicated by their chemical composition, regular consumption of Brussels sprouts can lower cholesterol levels, as also the risk of cancer and health disorders.
Tips for successfully growing Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a long-bearing crop that should ideally be planted early in spring or mid-to-late summer. They are known to perform best in sites recipient to 6 hours of sunlight on a daily basis. Fertile soil with high pH (about 6.8) and plenty of organic matter is ideal for planting Brussels sprouts. Set your plants 18-24 inches apart in rows or bed, allowing about 30 inches between adjacent rows. Water regularly, ensuring your plants get about 1 to 1 ½ inch water every week.
Cooking Brussels sprouts
When it comes to cooking, there’s no counting the number of ways they can be used in the kitchen! Brussels sprouts taste great roasted, sautéed, grilled, stir fried. One of my favorite Brussels sprouts recipes, roasted Brussels sprouts and apples, is a delightful preparation good for any occasion. Simply combine half a cup of diced apples and Brussels sprouts (8 ounces, trimmed and quartered) in a baking dish. Add salt, apple cider, minced fresh thyme, fresh ground black pepper and olive oil. Toss and bake for 25 minutes at 375°. Brussels sprouts with toasted breadcrumbs, lemon and Parmesan is another recipe you must give a go to. Prepare breadcrumbs by breaking or cutting bread into pieces and then processing in the food processor till you’ve obtained the desired texture. Toast them to a golden brown. Remove the sprouts’ stems and slice them each in half, lengthwise. Now arrange them on a large baking sheet, the cut side facing down and roast them in olive oil. When the sprouts start to turn brown, add breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and Parmesan and mix well. Finally, add lemon zest and continue roasting till the Brussels sprouts are dark, caramelized on the edges. Serve hot and savor the surreal taste!
Royal Marvel Hybrid Brussels Sprouts
Season extension is the way forth for gardeners who seek to do more, and get more out of their garden. So even when it’s gotten cold and the neighbor’s called it a season, you can choose to challenge the elements and cultivate your favorite plants beyond their usual growing period. Gurney’s offers some of the most essential season extenders.
Rain, frost, snow and wind are the obvious, most potent threats your plants face during the cold season. A fully heated greenhouse equipped with artificial lights is one of the most effective ways of countering inclement weather conditions and growing round the year.
Garden Row Covers
Row covers offer an easy, effective way of protecting your plants from frost as well as insect pests. These are usually made from permeable polypropylene material that lets in air, sunlight and water to help keep the plants growing even under adverse conditions. Our Floating Row Cover is a regular-weight cover that’s adequate for light frost protection, doubles as a surprisingly efficient insect control, and has been found to improve seed sprouting as well!
Row tunnels or “quick hoops” usually comprise an arc shaped frame covered with plastic sheet to create a greenhouse- like environment that boosts plant growth while at the same time, protecting them from the cold. Our Polythene Grow Tunnel is a fully-assembled grow tunnel with galvanized steel wire hoops- ideal for both short and long plant rows!
Mulching is a time tested way of keeping the plants warm by preventing heat loss. Organic mulches make for the simplest mode of retaining ground heat. If you’re growing on a large-scale, you might want to opt for commercially available synthetic mulches.
A little planning and the right season extending techniques are all you need to keep up your spirits and growing activities weeks into this cold season.
Polythene Grow Covers