Notes from the Organic Vegetable Garden (OVG)

In beautiful Potomac Overlook Regional Park

MGs hard at work harvesting rye and vetch

MGs hard at work harvesting rye and vetch
Photo©2016 Puja Gellerman

Many people, when thinking about growing vegetables, associate spring with the beginning of effort. They would be wrong. The truth is that many of us who grow vegetables in our region of northernmost Virginia garden nearly year-round. So, while seeding of the garden started with our first work party on March 16th, we really set up the growing season last fall with cover crops of rye, vetch, crimson clover, and Austrian peas, depending on what we planned to rotate into those beds in 2016. Putting down winter cover crops ensures that in early spring, the soil will be rich in nitrogen and well nourished by the deep roots of those cover crops. When we cut down these crops, starting in March, we cut up the green tops and shovel them under to create lighter, richer soil. Nothing goes to waste. (Except for compost and organic blood meal, added only when planting, we use NO insecticides, chemicals, or other additives).

The first seeds we planted included these cool weather crops: peas, radishes, carrots, spinach, kale, and lettuces. Because Potomac Overlook Regional Park holds an Open House on May 1st every year, we like to have plenty of radishes ready for the children to pick and eat. This year, because the weather has cooperated so well, just look at the size of our Cherry Bell and French Breakfast radishes by mid April! (For those of you counting, that’s 30 days!)

Cherry Belle radishes

Cherry Belle Radish
Photo©2016 by Nancy Dowling

French Breakfast radishes ready to pull

French Breakfast radishes ready to pull
Photo©2016 by Nancy Dowling

 

Garlic planted last October

Garlic planted last October
Photo©2016 by Nancy Dowling

Since then, we’ve added transplants of leeks, onions, and bunching onions. Garlic that we planted last October is now knee high and should be ready to pull when the stems die back later in the summer. But first, these garlic bulbs will provide us curly scapes – a delicacy to add to food for a garlic taste.

Overwintered Swiss Chard with new fava beans and spinach

Overwintered Swiss Chard with new fava beans and spinach
Photo©2016 by Nancy Dowling

Over the winter, we also kept some of last year’s cool weather fall plantings under plastic cover –including Swiss chard, lettuce and kale. When we opened up the plastic covers in March, they were still thriving and ready to harvest! It’s always a splendid surprise to harvest crops with so little effort before the winter chill is gone!  These plants have only gotten more robust since then, and we are still harvesting each week from those beds. Since March, we’ve planted more Swiss chard, fava beans, and lettuce in that bed.

This year, we are growing 2 new crops – strawberries and potatoes. The potatoes are growing deep down in special bags. As the foliage gets taller, we will add more soil to the bags.

Our strawberries border our future tomato and eggplant bed. We will not harvest any strawberries this year, but next year, they should be amazing.

Potatoes growing in bags

Potatoes growing in bags
Photo © 2016 by Nancy Dowling

Earlyglow Strawberries

Earlyglow Strawberries
Photo © 2016 by Nancy Dowling

Early Spring Asparagus

Early Spring Asparagus
Photo © 2016 by Nancy Dowling

Same goes for our new bed of asparagus, planted last year – we cannot harvest the stalks this year. But if gardening doesn’t teach us anything else, it teaches us patience. And you know what? We can wait.

~ Nancy Dowling

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