The Extreme Gardener

Experiments in permaculture and
other gardening adventures in northeastern Vermont

Archive for October, 2008

Overwintering cabbage

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

I worry about brassicas and onions. They are such important plants, and very few seed savers are working with them. The rate that the commercially available open pollinated varieties are disappearing is really scary. Brassicas and onions can be pretty fussy to grow seed and maintain purity, so it’s not hard to figure out why seed savers grow lots of tomato and bean varieties, but very few cabbages for seed.

I have a couple of good strains of kale I’ve been working with for about 10 years, and have had some success growing broccoli seed, though not consistently. I haven’t had any success with growing seed from heading cabbage – I can’t seem to maintain the plants in a root cellar over winter in good enough condition to get healthy seed the next year. So, I have had a strong interest in finding a hardy enough heading cabbage to overwinter here in the garden. The bummer is, I’ve finally found one, and now I can’t find a source for the seed in the US or Canada. The most recent edition of The Garden Seed Inventory has it on the no longer commercially available list. Yet, there seem to be plenty of commercial offerings for this variety in the UK.

cabbage July 2007

Cabbage Offenham July 2007. It was the only seedling that survived the first winter from an in situ sowing August 2006. The plant yielded one nice, sweet, medium sized conical head in October 2007. (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of it.) The heads have a strong resemblance to Early Jersey Wakefield, though Offenham plants are larger framed.

cabbage July 2008

July 2008, the plant had survived a second Vermont winter with no protection. I was impressed. I then expected it to bolt in 2008, but low and behold, it made 5 or 6 lovely little pointed heads this September and October, and it is continuing to throw shoots up from the roots and stalks.

cabbage Sept 2008cabbage multi head detail

Over wintering cabbages are also called spring cabbages. In warmer climates than ours, they are sown in August for heads in the late spring, and the smaller heads cut again in the fall. So, I’m wondering if I hadn’t cut the first head (in Sept. 2007) if it might have sent up a seed stalk last spring. It’s kind of a moot point because there’s only the one plant. (I like to have at least 6 plants for brassica olearica seed production). One way or another, I’ll have to find some more Offenham seed to plant next August…

Very large garden pests, or where is Sarah Palin when she could be helpful?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

moose cow

As I stumbled out of bed, I couldn’t help but notice a very large brown creature within 15 feet of the front door. I grabbed the camera and did what I could through the window. This is a moose cow, the trellis she is standing beside is 6 feet (2 meters) high. Moose were a rare sight here until the past 15 years or so, but their population is increasing as former hay fields and pasture have become overgrown. Up till now they have been shyly co-existing with us, mostly staying back in the cover of the woods. We regularly see their tracks and occasionally hear them huffing and stamping, hidden in the thick trees. They are becoming more bold, as you can see, and seem comfortable about being very close to a human habitation.

They hadn’t previously lingered in our yard and gardens, and the only damage we’d had was from them walking through garden beds. That said, they can really wreck a newly planted bed of onion sets, for instance. Their hooves are big, and they sink deeply into the soil.

Now, I don’t really mind about the poplar shoots they stripped – those were slated for cutting anyway. However, the next morning I caught one of them just before sunrise, eating our snap peas. It was too dark for the camera. The moose just watched me as I came out the door. I actually had to yell and jump up and down to get her moving. It’s time like these that I almost wish I wasn’t a vegetarian!