If you garden in Middle Tennessee, here are a few ideas to consider.
In April, plant a few rows of Detroit Dark Red beets, an old fashioned, tried and true heirloom. We have learned to make a four inch wide furrow and sprinkle the seed in it, firm them in, and then cover lightly. Thin them so they can make a three inch beet. The tops are edible as greens, and the roots make great pickled beets, if you don’t eat them all while fresh.
By August they’ll be gone and the same rows can then be planted in kale. We grow a flat-leafed variety called Smooth German that we’ve saved seed from for 35 years, besides Siberian, Red Russian, Lacinato, we also love Georgia Collards.
Firm the seed into the soil and enjoy greens all fall. Then cover them with row cover and harvest in winter. In March and April enjoy the new growth and especially the flower buds that look so much like little broccolis that we call them brokalees. The ones that escape eating will flower and make seed you can save by the end of May. After pulling up the plants, which are laid on a tarp in a shed to dry, these rows are ready for slips of the Golden Nugget sweet potato, the variety most grown in Tennessee back in the 1800’s.
Golden Nugget is a crow-foot leafed heirloom that is dry, yellow and has a flavor that will knock your socks off. They are planted in ridges around Memorial Day. They taught me that with just compost and lime, and a little labor, that an acre can produce 500 bushels and cost very little money.
Kennebec potatoes came out on top of our extensive potato variety trials during the 1980’s, and we still love to grow them. To plant, cut them so each piece is the size of an egg and has a couple of eyes. We try to get them into well-prepared composted soil around the end of March, stepping on them as we drop them in the furrows every foot or so. We cover them and then drag a rake over the rows 10 days later, and then again just as they are visible. The rake, but moving the soil, disturbs sprouting weed seeds in the row but doesn’t bother the strong potato shoots. We pull soil towards them as they grow to hill them up.
As soon as they are dug in late July, the rows are ready for October beans. They are the old fashioned Taylor’s Dwarf horticulture bean and quickly sprout up. They are also hilled later on and make a great yield of shelly beans. We also eat them in the green bean stage before they have matured.
Happy gardening, Jeff