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Trial and Error

June 11th, 2015

If you’ve read here long, you know that I love to grow different varieties of each vegetable. One of the main reasons for that is to discover which varieties do best in my climate and with my soil. Each garden has a different microclimate and the soils can be slightly different, even from your neighbor’s garden. Sometimes, one variety of a vegetable won’t do as well as another. Take my 5×5 Challenge garden this year:
bolting Spinach 2
It was planted with two different varieties of spinach on April 13. As you can clearly see, one is going to seed while the other isn’t. The ‘Catalina’ spinach from Renee’s Garden on the right is still going strong, even though they were both seeded at the same time. “Catalina’ has been a favorite spinach of mine for many years, it’s been very successful in my Ohio garden and in my garden here in Maine as well. Because of this I grow it every year, but I also trial other varieties as well.
catalina spinach
The other variety I planted was ‘Bloomsdale’ an old variety, that actually does quite well in the garden. Spinach is a little like carrots in that it can be slightly picky about being planted too closely.
bolting Spinach 1
It used to be that we had regional varieties of vegetables that were particularly suited to microclimates and geographic areas. Much of those varieties have been lost throughout the years, with a more mobile society and fewer people growing their own food and saving their own seed. We can start developing this knowledge once again, by trying different varieties, talking to local gardeners, and saving seed from open pollinated varieties that do particularly well in our area.

Do you trial different varieties of the same vegetables to find the perfect one for your garden?

Giant is Right!

May 21st, 2011

I’ve been out cleaning out the raised bed that housed the spinach that I overwintered. The plants started to bolt with the heat that we’ve been having. It seems that overwintered plants have gotten used to the cool weather and bolt at the first sign of heat – so make sure to succession plant to be prepared for this! While cleaning out the bed I came across this leaf on one of the ‘Giant Winter’ Spinach plants.

Now I understand why it’s called GIANT winter spinach – that’s the biggest spinach leaf I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty much a salad unto itself!

Have you ever harvested a giant vegetable in your garden?

The First Spring Salad

March 19th, 2011

On Thursday, when I was working outside, I harvested the first of the spinach that I overwintered in my hoop houses. It’s coming to life quite nicely this spring.

The leaves on the ‘Giant Winter’ that survived were huge. The leaves on the ‘Catalina’ were smaller, but there were more of them and the plants dealt with the cold best of the 2 varieties I planted.

I also harvested some dandelion and bitter cress greens to mix in with the spinach. We topped these lovely greens with: pastured smoked bacon, organic pastured eggs, caramelized organic onions, local organic raw milk blue cheese, and a maple vinaigrette made with some of our very own maple syrup.

It made for the perfect dinner, quick to make and delicious to eat! I’m looking forward to salad season, there’s definitely something cleansing about eating salads in the spring. It seems our bodies crave the greens and all the vitamins they provide after the long winter.

What’s your favorite salad green? Are you harvesting any from your garden yet?

No Winter Garden

February 18th, 2010

Last year at this time I was harvesting my first batch of spinach from the garden. Notice the sun and lack of snow, we currently have around 3 feet of snow on the raised beds.

I planted some spinach last fall hoping for the same results, but the weather turned cold very early. That coupled with a really early frost delayed the growth of the spinach enough that I don’t have any to harvest at the moment (not to mention all the snow). I should still have an early spring harvest, perhaps in late March or early April if the weather warms.

Sadly I will have no mid-February harvest of spinach this year. I’ll have to buy my greens at the market.

Do you do any winter gardening?

My First Harvest of 2009

February 19th, 2009

digmydinner-copyOn Tuesday afternoon I was able to weigh in my first harvest of 2009 for the Freedom Harvest Challenge over at Freedom Gardens. This year they’re trying to get all the Freedom Gardeners to tally their harvests and shoot for a million pounds of produce. I joined several weeks ago, but I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to contribute anything until later this spring when I have my garden is up and growing again.

If you remember back in September when I planted my spinach, you’ll recall I was hoping for an early spring harvest after mulching my spinach throughout the winter. I put a floating row cover over the spinach in late fall and I’ve been periodically checking it throughout the winter. I decided I would mulch it when it froze.
This was me checking the spinach bed on 12.29.08.
However, the spinach never froze. I checked it last week on the nice warm day we had and the spinach was looking good, so I decided I could harvest some for a salad.
I went out on Tuesday afternoon and pulled up the frosty row cover and harvested from spinach for a salad that evening for supper. So how much was my first harvest of 2009? 4.5 ounces. It’s not going to help much towards the million pound goal, but it’s a start.
We enjoyed 6 salads from our harvest and there’s plenty more out there (along with the mache). There’s nothing quite like enjoying a salad on a frosty February day from your own garden. I even got to enter in into my handy file to keep track of my harvests (which will be done as a template soon and available for download).

Is anyone else harvesting already? How much have you gotten so far in 2009?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.