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April 16, 2015

Companion Planting

In my never ending quest to grow more greens and to extend greens growing season I am experimenting with companion planting, and especially with growing dense and mulching heavily.

What tipped me off in this direction was the experience of harvesting sweet potatoes during some dry times of November. As I pulled the vines that covered the ground densely, I noticed that the ground under the vines was wet and cool while the rest of the garden was suffering from thirst. As I harvested all the potatoes and discarded the vines to the compost pile, the soil where the sweet potatoes were dried out within a day.

Usually regular greens like kale and collards are pretty much done by June. They simply stop growing and wilt away. I accepted that fact as part of Florida growing seasons. But this year I am trying to extend my greens well into the Summer.

The idea is to cover the soil with plants having no empty areas so that the leaves would shade the soil and keep the moisture in while lowering the soil temperature. I am diligently mulching the beds with grass clippings and so far the method works.

The bed above has collards, Buttercrunch lettuce, buckwheat, and bush beans growing together densely, and mulched with a layer of grass clippings about two to three inches deep between the plants. Granted it is not July yet, but we had some over ninety days, and the plants did not wilt. It also helps that this bed gets shade in the afternoon.

The curly leaves in the picture above is Russian Kale. I stumbled upon the seeds at Tractor Supply and just had to try them. It is amazingly juicy and tender kale, and now is my favorite. This kale is interplanted with beans, buckwheat, and broadleaf mustard greens. I am very curious as to what will happen to these beds in the mid-Summer. I am seriously hoping to have enough greens for my salads from these beds; it is definitely a worthy experiment.

April 11, 2015

A different kind of garden

The beginnings of my aquaponics garden. More to come.

April 6, 2015

Sakurajima Radish - a resilient green for Florida gardens

If you are into organic greens, check out this awesome radish that has tasty edible greens. It is called sakurajima radish. It is grown in Japan for the greens and the root, and it is heat tolerant. In Florida it is very difficult to grow greens in the Summer time. After much experimenting sakurajima radish is one green that I grow throughout the Summer. I did try eating the root, but to my taste it was too tough and too dense. It might be good cooked, or fermented like they do in Japan, but at this point I only care for the greens, which are delicious, and did I mention they grow in the heat?

Here's what the root of the plant looks like (hiding beneath the abundant seed pods):

Once you've grown a few plants, they will provide the seeds for you in excess. In fact, sakurajima will re-seed freely if you let it. After a couple of years I have sakurajima sprouting up on the lawn and in garden beds, sometimes very far from where it originally grew.

And finally, here are the greens. Young greens taste good raw in salads, bigger ones are good stir-fried, boiled, or cooked in any way you like cooked greens. They can be seeded throughout the year, but please select a shaded spot for them to hide from the scorching Summer rays.


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