It’s been an eventful 2013 spring for the Snarky Gardener. He has learned humility and patience, especially since it’s taking forever for everyone to know how wonderful he truly is. Mother nature has given many lessons this year, and it’s possible the Snarky Gardener won’t make the same mistakes next year. Here’s the summary of highlights and lowlights (is that really a word?) for this spring.
Starting my own plants
This year started with much (probably too much) enthusiasm as January can make a gardener in Ohio a little nuts. Overall it went well, with lots of tomatoes, and basil plants to plant and trade. I do need to improve on starting dates, labeling, and hardening off. All of these issues come down to one thing – patience. I tend to want to start seeds earlier than they should be, forget to label and/or record properly, and to rush plants outside too soon.
Spinach was a little hard to get germinated (maybe one in two seeds actually sprouted). I used the AeroGarden starter kit, so maybe spinach just doesn’t do very well with that system. I’ve done some research on soil cubes and could go that direction for spinach and others next year.
Frosts and freezes
Last year we in Northeast Ohio got spoiled with an early spring with warm weather in March and April. This year we had freezes and frosts into late May and I lost quite a few tomatoes and peppers. I’ll make a concerted effort not put out the majority of my frost intolerant plant until late May next year.
This is the second year I’ve had issues with groundhogs in my garden. Last year in July, a little guy (named him Woody) terrorized my garden for a week or two until I finally caught him in the act of trespassing and theft. He took out half my early corn and green beans before I was able to finally capture him. Let’s just say that he’s in a better place now.
This year the fun started earlier in late May as a momma and her little one moved into Woody’s old house, which is a burrow under a stacked pile of pine trees 5 feet behind my garden. It began with a few carrot tops missing and culminated with the loss of spinach, peas, kale, broccoli, and even Jerusalem artichokes. I called in the experts this time as my own trapping efforts were getting me nowhere. First morning we had a raccoon, who had been stealing my trap bait of corn and apples. My trap is obviously cheap and worthless. Since the raccoon, we caught two more raccoons, Mama and another baby groundhog. On July 4th, I added some 3 foot chicken fencing to the north side with 1 1/2 feet on the ground and 1 1/2 feet attached to the current fence. This will keep future groundhogs (there will be more) from digging under (crossing my fingers).
My long-term plan is to remove the wood either by having the landlord move it or by acquiring a chain saw. The cleared area will make a good place to expand my composting efforts.
Overwintering and collecting seeds
I overwintered several different plants this year, mostly because I wanted early spring produce. Carrots, kale, onions, mache, and turnips all made it back for 2013. I let the kale, mache, and turnips go to seed with a concerted effort to collect the Seven Top turnip green seeds. I ended up with a giant bag of turnip green seeds on 7/14 (more than I’ll ever use), so if you want some, just let me know and I’ll figure out a way to get them to you. I’m still planning to collect tomato and bean seeds for sure, with a possibility of collecting peppers and eggplants this year too.
The Snarky Gardener lists the best vegetables to plant in Northeastern Ohio gardens
I developed this list by asking, “If I was starting a new Northeastern Ohio garden today, what would I plant to guarantee success?” Planting at the right time and place is an important factor in producing an abundance of veggies. Some vegetables can withstand frosts and prefer spring or fall. Others love the heat of July and August. Some can handle some shade where others must have at least 6 hours of sun a day to grow well. All these variables (plus a few more) are noted below.
Note: Some links shown here are Snarky Gardener affiliates. We do use and/or buy these varieties unless otherwise noted. With your purchase, the SG receives a small percentage that helps our site with overhead costs like Internet hosting and graphic design. Since you are already here and need to buy seeds anyways . . .
When to Plant Tomatoes in Northeastern Ohio: around the middle of May after all danger of frost has passed. You can plant determine varieties (like Romas) later in June or even July since they produce all their fruit at once and then die off.
By onions, I mean the bulbs you buy at the garden store and use as either green onions (tops and all) or later as full onions. Perennial onions (like these Egyptian Walking Onions) come back year after year. Onions (and other related plants – garlic, leaks, chives) are also mammal resistant, as deer and rabbits and groundhogs will usually leave them alone.
When to Plant Onion in Northeastern Ohio: These can first be planted in March or April and can be continuously planted through the fall.
3. Green Beans
Easy to grow (once the spring frosts are over) and will help to improve the soil with their nitrogen fixing. They also produce food quickly (under 60 days) so they can be planted later in the season (through the beginning of August here in Ohio). Dry beans, used for soups and chili, are just green beans that have not been picked before the pods are brown (like these Jacob’s Cattle beans). Beans are a favorite food of groundhogs and rabbits though so you’ll need to fence them in if you have either near your garden.
When to Plant Green Beans in Northeastern Ohio: around the middle of May after all danger of frost has passed until August.
Very prolific, zucchini are always welcome in my garden. I tend to go with the all-female varieties – like Burpee’s Sure Thing Zucchini – because they don’t need to be pollinated by insects to produce fruit. Plant zucchini in mounds with 2 or 3 seeds per mound.
When to Plant Zucchini in Northeastern Ohio: around the end of May after all danger of frost has passed and the ground has warmed up.
Planted in spring, potatoes are really easy. Just put in the ground and hill up dirt or mulch (leaves or straw) as the plant itself grows up. Just wait for the plant to die off and then dig up your taters. You will need store bought seed potatoes as grocery store potatoes are usually sprayed with chemicals that keep them from sprouting.
When to Plant Potatoes in Northeastern Ohio: as early as St. Patrick’s Day through June.
Garlic, like potatoes, are super easy. I did find out the hard way, you must split the bulbs up into cloves before planting. But after they are in, you are good to go. Garlic can be strategically planted to help deter critters (deer, rabbits, etc) from eating other crops. Many animals do not like the smell of garlic.
When to Plant Garlic in Northeastern Ohio: mid October to be pulled in July or plant in March/April though this will grow smaller bulbs.
Easy to grow and very nutritious (a so-called “super food”), though the greens are somewhat bitter to eat sometimes (colcannon anyone?). I’ve been going with Seven Top turnips over the last year or so, which are grown mostly for their greens. The standard Purple Top White Globe turnip is also good for it’s greens, though you do have to worry about the roots getting tough and dried out as the summer temperatures spike. Turnips prefer cool weather and can be sown in early spring or fall and will overwinter (and then promptly go to seed if not harvested in time). They can also handle partial shade. As for pests, I have found turnips to be relatively pest free from both mammals and insects.
When to Plant Turnips in Northeastern Ohio: March through May and then again in August and October.
Carrots are an issue for some gardens as rocky or clay soil can make for forked roots. Red Cored Chantenay is the 6 inch variety I commonly grow that’s just perfect for Northeast Ohio’s clay soil. They also overwinter well, coming back up for a special spring treat. The tops are loved by fuzzy animals, both mammals and caterpillars.
When to Plant Carrots in Northeastern Ohio: April to August.
Think of peas like green beans (i.e. they fix nitrogen) for the spring and fall. They can be planted as early as St. Patrick’s day in Northeastern Ohio. And like green beans, they are loved by bunnies and groundhogs, so you’ll need to fence the peas in and the rodents out. Also, they are tasty right off the vine, so there’s a chance they never make it back to the kitchen.
When to Plant Peas in Northeastern Ohio: March through May and then again in August and September.
Kale is a relative to cabbage and broccoli but easier to grow. Red Russian kale seems to be a winner as I know several other local gardeners who also raise it. You’ll need to keep an eye out for little green worms as they love kale.
When to Plant Kale in Northeastern Ohio: April through September.
I tossed spinach in because it’s one of my favorite “super foods”. I like it better than most other greens (including lettuce and kale). But it’s a little hard to get started and will bolt (go to seed) once the weather gets hot (but loves the cool). Also, spinach can handle some shade, so if you have at least 2 to 3 hours of sunlight a day, you’re good to go.
When to Plant Spinach in Northeastern Ohio: April / May and again in August/September.
I was at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market in Kent Ohio this winter and ran across some Jacob’s Cattle beans from Breakneck Acres (located just around the corner from Snarky Acres – aka my house). I had read about Jacob’s Cattle beans in one or two of my many gardening books and wanted to eat (and grow) some myself. After a Google search, I found a recipe I could adapt to make my own special local chili. Converting it into a crock pot recipe made it quick and easy.
Note: I saved back one bag so I could plant them this spring. Maybe in the fall I’ll be doing this same recipe with my own beans.
1 pound (aka bag) of Jacob’s Cattle beans
1 or 2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp. Garlic powder)
Olive oil for frying
1 pound ground beef
3-4 T. chili powder
2-3 T. cumin
2 Jalapeno peppers
Dash of cinnamon
Large can crushed tomatoes (2 1/2 cups fresh)
1 tsp. local honey (instead of brown sugar)
2 T. vinegar (white, red wine, apple cider or balsamic)
Salt and pepper to taste
Turnip Greens (optional)
Soak the beans in water about 2-3 inches above the beans in the crock pot or a non-metal bowl for 6-8 hours or overnight. Discard the soaking water and cover with fresh water an inch or two above the beans. Cook the ground beef until nicely browned and crumbled, set aside. Sauté the onions in a oil until soft, then add everything to the crock pot and stir well. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours.
– Jalapeno peppers – fresh from the AeroGarden
– Turnip Greens – frozen from last year’s garden
– Tomatoes – frozen from last year’s garden
– Onions – fresh from the garden
– Garlic – fresh thinnings from the garden
– Cilantro – fresh thinnings from the Front Yard Herb garden
– Jacob’s Cattle beans – from Breakneck Farms
– Ground beef – from Sirna’s Farm CSA in Auburn Ohio
– Local Honey
– Olive oil
– Chili powder
– Salt and pepper
Captain Obvious here with a public service announcement to let you know that even experienced gardeners can make mistakes. I’ve been growing food for six or seven years but never my own garlic. At the Haymaker Farmers’ Market in Kent this fall, a bag of garlic called out to me (“Buy me!”) and I asked the lady selling them if they could be planted, to which she said yes. What she didn’t say was how to plant them. I have planted onion bulbs for years now (very easy). Just take them out and plop them in the ground, pointy end up. The garlic I bought was on the small side, so my onion experience thought they would just get bigger once planted. Thus, last October I planted the bulbs, pointy end up, just like I would with onion sets (except somehow I knew to bury them in several inches of mulch).
This February, when we had a nicer day (i.e. above freezing), I peeked under the leaf mulch to see how they were doing. Below are pictures of what I found (note the multiple green spears). Even then I didn’t really think anything was wrong. About a week later, after reading some new gardening books, the wrongness of the situation came to me as a slow but steady voice in my head – “Plant cloves not bulbs.” I conducted an Internet search for examples of others who had made this same mistake. Oddly enough, I didn’t discover much, just a mention of finding missed bulbs the following year in May, and others commenting that they wouldn’t produce much with the cloves that close together (noooooooo!).
It was two weeks later before the weather was nice enough (mid 40’s and sunny on March 8th) to deal with the bunched up garlic cloves. Drawing the mulch back, I pulled the cloves apart, leaving one or two rooted to the ground. Those I removed were attached quite well and took some tenacity to get them out without damage. But in the end I prevailed and all the bulbs were now cloves (albeit with a green sprout and several inches of roots). I planted these just north of the current garlic bed (up into my overwintered carrots) and to the west, where I will co-plant kohlrabi and broccoli with them in April (hoping to scare away some cabbage flies with the stinky garlic smell). I have no idea how the replanted garlic will do, as spring garlic doesn’t perform as well as fall planted. But at this point I’m willing to roll the dice so future snarky gardeners will know if their crop can be saved or if they should just dig them up and enjoy (yum).