Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts and greetings from Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes, nestled in beautiful Poway, California.
Even though we are still in the winter season, the weather has been favorably mild this year. Last month, we talked about pruning your roses and we even had a hands-on workshop to get local rose lovers a chance to learn by tending our roses.
We had a couple of Consulting Rosarians, from the San Diego Rose Society, share with us their knowledge on rose pruning and general care. I’m feeling good, knowing that our 40 plus roses bushes are pruned correctly, fertilized with Dr. Earth Organic Rose Food and sprayed with liquid copper as a dormant spray. I can already see the new blooms start to peek out, as they set forth to give our residents some beautiful flowers to enjoy in a couple of months. In a similar fashion, all of our deciduous fruit trees are also pruned, fertilized and sprayed. We will attack, in short order, our citrus trees once we finish the winter harvest.
As far as winter veggie production, we are still constantly harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and romaine lettuce. I shared some of our secrets on cole crop (cool season crop) production in our November and December blogs. We will continue planting these crops through March, plus our spring goodies such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and eventually peppers. Our greenhouse is packed with all these transplants. Next month we will start talking about our spring vegetable production, but let me end our winter endeavors with a few unique crops related to the broccoli and cauliflower families.
At the end of last year, my friend Ramiro Lobo, a University of California Farm Advisor for San Diego County asked me if Sunshine Care would like to get involved with a project he was heading up in conjunction with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing- The Original Ranch. Hidden Valley has started a campaign and committed over 1 million dollars to schools and organizations across the U.S. Their goal is to help seed and grow a “Love for Veggies” in kids. We here at Sunshine Care are always excited about growing and eating our vegetables but we understand that kids might need a little more of a nudge.
Ramiro knew that we are very active with local churches, schools and volunteer organizations within our organic fruit and vegetable production world. On the first and third Thursdays of each month, we have a group of local children come to Sunshine Care and learned about the world of organics. We have a “Children’s Garden” on site and the youngsters handle all aspects of fruit and vegetable production. We provide education so the kids learn to plant, weed, harvest and perform cultural practices. They play with worms, compost and eventually get to taste the produce they grew and take some to enjoy at home. They work hard and it is a total joy to participate in the field with them. After we are done in the field we go to the greenhouse where they bond with some of our residents, their “Grandmas and Grandpas”, and enjoy other activities with them such as seeding vegetable trays, watering plants in our greenhouse and releasing ladybugs to control possible aphid outbreaks. When we are done the residents are showered with Handshakes, High- Fives and the ever popular HUGS! It’s a beautiful thing.
We agreed to get involved with the Hidden Valley project and the UC Cooperative Extension and called our project the “Great Veggie Adventure”. The crops we are growing have a definite, different eye appeal, as far as veggies go. They are meant to grab a kid’s attention. We are growing-
Veronica, a Romanesco lime-green spiraled cauliflower
Panther, another lime-green cauliflower, normal in shape
Graffiti, a purple- headed stunning cauliflower
Cheddar, a bright orange headed cauliflower
And a variety of colorful carrots and radishes.
Let’s go through these crops one by one.
Veronica Romanesco is actually a broccoli but referred to as a cauliflower. Heads are pointed, spiraled pinnacles that are lime green in color. For those of you that are a bit nerdish when it comes to math, the bud has an approximate, self-similar character. The branching meristems form a logarithmic spiral. In this sense the broccoli’s shape approximates a natural fractal. Each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral. This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels. Bottom line- IT IS WEIRD LOOKING AND DELICIOUS!! Veronica is high in vitamins C and K, dietary fiber and carotenoids. The heads have a milder flavor and are more creamy and nutty than conventional broccoli and cauliflower.
Panther, green cauliflower is easy to grow and produces a unique, tight lime-green head, 6”-7” wide, that holds well and tolerates cold weather stress. They have a delicious mild flavor when cooked and a definite crowd pleaser and attention grabber when served fresh.
Graffiti, purple cauliflower is absolutely brilliant and stunning in color. It tastes just like white cauliflower and it is a great colorful addition to your crudite platters. It produces a true cauliflower head on large plants. The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group, anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.
Cheddar cauliflower is bright orange in color, like cheddar cheese. The color indicates that the curd, or head, has elevated beta-carotene levels. It is a medium –sized plant that produces smooth, domed heads. This variety doesn’t require “blanching techniques” to obtain the deepest, orange color. Cheddar cauliflower has 25 times the level of vitamin A over regular white cauliflower.
To grow these varieties requires exactly what most broccoli or cauliflower varieties need- soils rich in organic matter and well drained. Refer to past blogs of October and November of last year on cool season crops, and grow them the same way. To purchase seed, pull out your Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and call them up.
Veronica seed is $5.95 and $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds, depending if you want conventional or organic seed.
Panther seed will cost you $5.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.
Graffiti runs $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.
Cheddar cauliflower will set you back $12.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.
While you have your catalog out, look at all the varieties of colorful radishes and carrots. Our kids love the Rainbow Carrot mix along with Atomic Red, Purple Haze and Deep Purple varieties. As far as radishes, try the Red Meat, otherwise known as Watermelon Radish (50 days) and the Easter Egg multicolored variety (30 days). These are no-brainers. Work the soil, spread some seed, water and thin them out when about an inch tall according to the variety’s directions. These are crops your children will get quick satisfaction growing and eating.
For those of you in the San Diego County area, I personally invite you to attend our February Garden Lecture on the 18th at 10:30 am, here at Sunshine Care. We will be covering all the cool season and spring crops, we grow for our residents. Our workshops are free and include refreshments, raffle prizes and end with a tour of our gardens and orchards. So bring a friend and come on by.