Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

036 When To Fertilize. Growing Celtuce. Peak Harvest and Storage Tips.

August 11, 2020 Fred Hoffman Season 1 Episode 36
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
036 When To Fertilize. Growing Celtuce. Peak Harvest and Storage Tips.
Chapters
1:24
When to Fertilize Your Plants
12:27
Growing Celtuce
20:58
Peak Time for Harvesting Your Garden Crops. Storage tips.
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
036 When To Fertilize. Growing Celtuce. Peak Harvest and Storage Tips.
Aug 11, 2020 Season 1 Episode 36
Fred Hoffman

Welcome to another edition of the Garden Basics podcast, once again with the subtitle, "I didn’t know that!" College Horticulture professor (retired) Debbie Flower tackles the question, is it better to fertilize your plants in the morning or the evening? Or does it matter? Debbie points out…it depends on the temperature. 

It’s not celery, it’s not a lettuce you'd recognize, it’s Celtuce! Also called stem lettuce, asparagus lettuce or Chinese lettuce, Celtuce is popular in upscale restaurants for its crispy, flavorful stems and leaves. And now is the time to be growing it. We get all the basics about growing Celtuce on today’s show, from Matt Mattus, author of the book, "Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening: Rare Varieties, Unusual Options, Plant Lore and Guidance"

It’s harvest season for many popular backyard garden fruits and vegetables. But do you know the ideal time for harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, eggplants and more? And, once you take them in the house, do you know where to store them? It’s probably not the refrigerator. Also, here's a link on how to store your backyard fruits as well as more vegetables.

We learn something new, every time, on Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. And we will do it again today in Episode 36, and we will do it in under 30 minutes! Let’s go.

More episodes and info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1004629.

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available wherever podcasts are found. Please subscribe and leave a comment or rating at Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Got a garden question? Call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to another edition of the Garden Basics podcast, once again with the subtitle, "I didn’t know that!" College Horticulture professor (retired) Debbie Flower tackles the question, is it better to fertilize your plants in the morning or the evening? Or does it matter? Debbie points out…it depends on the temperature. 

It’s not celery, it’s not a lettuce you'd recognize, it’s Celtuce! Also called stem lettuce, asparagus lettuce or Chinese lettuce, Celtuce is popular in upscale restaurants for its crispy, flavorful stems and leaves. And now is the time to be growing it. We get all the basics about growing Celtuce on today’s show, from Matt Mattus, author of the book, "Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening: Rare Varieties, Unusual Options, Plant Lore and Guidance"

It’s harvest season for many popular backyard garden fruits and vegetables. But do you know the ideal time for harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, eggplants and more? And, once you take them in the house, do you know where to store them? It’s probably not the refrigerator. Also, here's a link on how to store your backyard fruits as well as more vegetables.

We learn something new, every time, on Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. And we will do it again today in Episode 36, and we will do it in under 30 minutes! Let’s go.

More episodes and info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1004629.

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available wherever podcasts are found. Please subscribe and leave a comment or rating at Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Got a garden question? Call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube

Farmer Fred :

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information well you've come to the right spot. Welcome to another edition of the garden basics podcast; and once again, it has the subtitle, "I didn't know that." College horticulture Professor retired Debbie Flower tackles the question, "is it better to fertilize your plants in the morning or in the evening?" Or does it even matter? Debbie's going to point out it really depends on the temperature. It's not celery, it's not lettuce. It's celtuce, also called stem lettuce, asparagus lettuce, or Chinese lettuce. Celtuce is popular in upscale restaurants for its crispy flavorful stems and leaves and now is the time to be growing it. we get all the basics about growing celtuce on today's show. It's harvest season for many popular backyard garden fruits and vegetables, but do you know the ideal time for harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, eggplants, and more? And then once you take them in the house, where are you going to store them? The refrigerator is probably not the best place. We break them down one by one. And we learn something new every time on Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. And we'll do it again today, in Episode 36. And we'll do it in under 30 minutes. Let's go. We like to answer your questions here on the garden basics podcast. Danny writes in Debbie Flower, our favorite college horticultural professor, and Danny asks about feeding his plants about fertilizer. He wonders that if at a particular temperature plants don't feed, do they just hydrate and then he asks about what time of day is best for feeding the plants, during the day or at night? or do they need the Sun to eat? These are very difficult questions from Danny. well He's a thinking guy. And that's cool. Like to see that he's right that research shows that above 86 degrees Fahrenheit plants don't use fertilizer, don't use nutrients, they're just pumping water through their system to keep themselves cool much like a human would sweat in a very hot situation. He asks if they need sun to eat. plants do need sun to make food. plants are autotrophs, meaning they feed themselves. auto means self. And they use nutrients which are gathered primarily through the roots and some from the air through the stoma to make their own food and that food would only happens when the plant can collect the energy from the sun or light of some sorts. So yes, they do only use them when they're making their food. But they all have different strategies and They'll basically use the same strategy. But depending on where the plant is living in what it's adapted to, it may collect its nutrients at night only. Or it may do it during only some seasons. But when we fertilize, we are just putting nutrients into the growing media, that growing media in most cases is the soil outdoors. It can be the soilless mix in a container you have in the house, or greenhouse or whatever. Or it can be the liquid solution that you're using in your hydroponic system. Whatever the roots are growing in, that is the media I'm talking about. And that's where the nutrients need to be, that the plant will then absorb, we can apply those nutrients at pretty much anytime of day or night. And pretty much any temperature with a caveat of really applying above 86 degrees can mess up the plant's ability to absorb water. So we really want to apply the nutrients When when it's cooler, but day or night, it doesn't matter. All we're doing is loading the root zone with the nutrients that the plant then will collect when it's ready to make its own food. If you're growing outdoors in the soil, you really, in most cases only need to be applying nitrogen and if you're using lots of mulch, you may not even need to apply any synthetic nitrogen at all. organic matter can apply all that you need. But the source of the nutrients for the plant is the growing media. the growing media, we put the nutrients in, or nature does by putting dropping leaves, creating a natural compost below the plant whatever, put it in the growing media and then the plant will take that up when the plant needs it. The one caveat is it's recommended we not fertilize it very high temperatures, let's say about 86 degrees. If we get any on the leaves of the plant, we can cause burning there if we applied too much fertilizer at any time We can cause burning, because the plant only has a limited ability to choose what it absorbs. If the growing media is just completely full of nutrients, and it's above 86 degrees and the plant is trying to just pump water through itself, it may not be able to get just water if there's too much nutrient in the root zone too much or applying it. Those are the reasons we don't apply when temperatures are very high. We want the plant to be able to get just water to keep itself cool. Is this true for both synthetic and organic based fertilizers? Absolutely. synthetic fertilizers are very pure for the nutrient you're applying and the we can very easily apply more than the plant can use and so we can very easily cause burn fertilizer burns, I can remember burning my corn with ammonium sulfate in a garden I had many decades ago. when we apply organic fertilizers, organic fertilizers tend to be much have much lower concentration of nutrients in them. And they are in large molecular sizes and have to be broken down by natural processes before the plant can get them. So it's a slow release. It happens over time. It happens with activity of weather and microorganisms and macro organisms like worms that break down that organic material and release those nutrients more slowly. So we tend to be safer applying the organic ones, we tend to have less fertilizer burning with organic one. The question people may have if there's this cutoff point of 86 degrees where you do not fertilize plants if the temperature is over 86 degrees. Does it matter if you do it earlier in the morning or is it better to fertilize with declining temperatures when they when the temperature start coming down in late afternoon or early evening? Is that a better time to fertilize than say early in the morning? I can't tell you definitively based on any kind of research whether one is better than the other. You always want to apply fertilizers, especially organic fertilizers I would put down at any time even at 86 degrees or above, because they are not providing a huge quantity of the kind of fertilizer molecules that will burn the plant. They're providing very little of that and they're providing it as a steady stream over long periods of time. If I were using synthetic fertilizers, meaning basically the kinds of buy in a box that has some high numbers on the front 10 10 10 maybe and you dissolve it in your watering can and go around and water the plants that I would apply probably in the morning personally, but I don't have any research that says the morning is better than the evening. It just has to be very careful about how much you apply. too much throws off a lot of chemical and biological things in the soil, and you're doing more damage than good. Now, earlier in your testimony, Professor Flower, you stated that one should not apply either synthetic or organic fertilizers if the temperature is above 86. Now you're just saying it's okay to fertilize with organic fertilizers if the temperature is over 86. where were you on the night when the plants were being fed? I okay, in the beginning, I think I just said don't apply fertilizer in general, but I if when I'm saying organic fertilizer, I'm thinking of things like like compost and manure, dry manure, it's not fresh manures. fresh manures have a lot of high concentrations. So I guess the cutoff line is not organic versus synthetic, it's the analysis or the quantity of the nutrients that is in that fertilizer is high, above 5%. I wouldn't apply it above 86 degrees ever. If it's low 1% or below, I wouldn't have any qualms about applying it. And the problem with organic fertilizers well if you buy them in a bottle like fish emulsion or something you do get the analysis listed on the bottle. If you're bringing in compost or mulch, you don't know how much or even manures, even manures that have dried out and sat in the in the chicken coop. my mother did that. she brought home the chicken manure that had been in her father's chicken coops for decades was very dry. It was inside the chicken coop, brought it home, put it on the garden and killed everything immediately. So it's really has to do with the concentration of it's typically nitrogen but concentration of nutrients in that fertilizers, they're very high concentration. Don't apply them above 86 degrees. If They're very low, You can apply them any time because it will take they're so mild that they're not going to cause any osmotic problems or burning on the plant. So I guess the advice We would have for anybody raising chickens if you want to use chicken manure in your garden is to let it sit in a pile for a few months. Yeah, it's better to put it into a compost pile it contains other things chicken manure can really burn things can be what we call hot a hot fertilizer, hot meaning very high in in nutrition, and so high that it burns. The form of nutrients that the plant can take in is a salt and salt means it's dissolvable in water and can move to the plant and water and can we table salt table salt dissolves in water, and that can throw off the plant's ability to absorb water and that's when we have burn in the plant. But I'm really making it muddier and muddier aren't I? I learned this before but if we're putting on large quantities of mulch, we don't need to apply any fertilizer at all because the amount of nitrogen in that is ultimately enough. Ed Laivo has been saying that for years. Basically, I just mulch my fruit trees. I don't fertilize them. Right. Right. Do you want to end this piece? You want to say? Yes, I guess I should. We learned a lot about fertilization today from Professor Debbie Flower. Debbie. Thanks for a few minutes of your time. You're welcome. I hope it's clearer than mud. Thank you. The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode transcripts, links to any products or books mentioned during the show and other helpful links for even more information. Plus, you can listen to just the portions of the show that interest you. It's been divided into easily accessible chapters, and you'll find more information about how to get in touch with us. We have links to all our social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also a link to the farmerfred.com website. That's where you can find out more information about the radio shows. You remember radio, right? If the place where you access the podcast doesn't have that information. You can find it all at our home podcaster, buzzsprout. buzzsprout.com just look for the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. You'll find a link to it in the show notes. There's a garden author out there with a book and I love his philosophy. He says treat your vegetable garden as your own private fantasy supermarket. What a great idea. always trying something new to eat and growing some beautiful crops that you can eat. Some of them are ornamental edibles. Some of them are just things you've never tried yet. You ought to check them out in his new book, Mastering the Art of the vegetable garden. We're talking with Matt Mattus, he's an American visual designer, artist, horticulturist, and futurist. He's a third generation gardener on his family property back In Massachusetts, and he has a very popular gardening blog that's won many awards called, growing with plants. And you can find out more about that at his website growing with plants.com. And Matt, this is a beautiful book that you've put together here, Mastering the Art of vegetable gardening. And what was your inspiration for it?

Matt Mattus :

Well, my inspiration is it's what I do everyday naturally. I mean, obviously, I think from the look of the book, you can tell I'm a visual designer. I was a creative director at Hasbro toy company for 28 years. Graphic Design, visual design photography is important to me, but through all that time, I was not a closet gardener. I was a pretty serious geeky gardener.

Farmer Fred :

And what is gardening like in Massachusetts? out here, It's a 12 month a year avocation.

Matt Mattus :

Yeah, it is for you. But we're certainly in the four season realm, which is, you know, sadly for you folks is how most garden books are written right there, right. They're written for England or New England, it seems but um, I say your gardening is like my greenhouse. I am fortunate enough to have a glass greenhouse and I was looking at the high and low temperatures in Sacramento area in San Joaquin and I'm like, that's my greenhouse. I can I can grow camellias in my greenhouse, but I can't outside.

Farmer Fred :

Okay. All right. Do you have any citrus in your greenhouse?

Matt Mattus :

I have plenty of citrus in my greenhouse for harvesting Meyer lemons right now.

Farmer Fred :

How big is this greenhouse?

Matt Mattus :

It's 30 feet by 24 feet, and it's 16 feet tall.

Farmer Fred :

Oh, I'm jealous. I'm so

Matt Mattus :

it's, it's my little bit of California here where it's, you know, minus six degrees last night.

Farmer Fred :

Let's talk about some of the cool season vegetable crops that you profile in your book Mastering the Art of vegetable gardening, and you've got some rather unusual ones in there that people may have not heard of, like celtuce, c-e-l-t-u-c-e. Not to be confused with a botanical name for a hackberry tree.

Matt Mattus :

Correct. Let's spell it slightly differently. Well, celtuce is really a lettuce. So really romaine lettuce and basically a Chinese vegetable it if you look at the history of lettuce It started in in the Rome area of Italy and it's split into and the head lettuce that we are familiar with or loose leaf lettuce moves sort of through Europe and it was adopted through Europe again if you look at history the the romaine type of lettuce or stem lettuce moved into Asia you know for 3000 years that's a remains eaten as a stem vegetable. The leafs are used too, but the tall stock of let's say if you cut a romaine open, you know that bitters thought it that's the part that the Chinese loves to eat for, you know, hundreds of years. And I ran across it again I remember it as a child appearing in like a burpee catalog in the 60's and 70's, as a novelty never ever thought of growing it. Basically the history of it, you know was not they try to market it in the turn of the century in California as asparagus lettuce. But only within Asian communities was it grown you know, no one would know how to grow it or cook with it.

Farmer Fred :

You mentioned in your book that it's also called stem lettuce. How do you how do you prepare it to eat?

Matt Mattus :

Well, it's very easy to grow. In fact, if you can't grow lettuce, well you could probably grow stem lettuce well because it looks very much like romaine lettuce that went to seed so if you're a bit of a lazy gardener, try celtuce or stem lettuce. It grows exactly like romaine. In fact, it looks like romaine lettuce and when it's young and only when it's such the warm up upside so in your area that's probably you know, April or so it'll send the stock will elongate. This may be an inch wide or inch and a half two inches wide with some varieties and you peel the leaves off you pull it right out of the ground, pull the Leafs off you peel it as you would asparagus. Let's say the woody or end of asparagus, but stem lettuce is very crispy. It's beautiful. If if there's a Szechuan restaurant around, they most likely would have it on the menu or Good Asian market. It's showing up here in the northeast and large Asian supermarkets now.

Farmer Fred :

How tall does it get?

Matt Mattus :

It gets about two or three feet tall, pretty massive and pretty beautiful in the garden. I was fortunate to go to Uganda summer on a plant expedition into western China and Tibet, and we saw these fields of red leaves when we didn't know what they were and we asked our jeep drivers to stop so we can go look and it was celtuce and in researching celtuce I, I discovered that the burpee company acquired celtuce from an explorer who went to Hunan in the 1920s and brought the seeds back of stem lettuce and they're the ones. Burpee is the one who branded it celtuce, for celery lettuce.

Farmer Fred :

and it won't bolt in the summertime?

Matt Mattus :

it'll bolt eventually if you keep it if you let it go to seed. I've actually in here I've never let it go to seed it seems to elongate as if a lettuce going to seed but I've never seen flower buds form on the end. I think we'd have to have a longer season so maybe in California would go to seed but before then it would probably the stem would probably split if there's a problem with it here it's that we get, you know, summer thunderstorms and it could be dry for two weeks and then we get this drenching rain and the stem will split. I don't think you would have that problem there but over irrigated after a dry period, the stem is crispy and crunchy has a lot of water in it. So it's like a water chestnut and so beautiful when it's sliced. It looks like a piece of Jade. crispy and it really doesn't have a flavor. It's more of a texture thing, even when it's cooked creates a crunch factor.

Farmer Fred :

You mentioned that it's easy to grow from seed when soil temperatures are cool. So it sounds like the ideal cool season crop that you could put in the ground from seed here in California even in January and February.

Matt Mattus :

Absolutely if you're growing lettuce you can grow celtuce because botanically it's the same plant, it's just a subspecies of lettuce. So if you can germinate lettuce and you know lettuce likes to germinate cool, you know, we'd say 35 to 45 degrees for the highest germination levels. If your soil temperature is you know anywhere between the high 30s and 50 it should germinate fine it transplants well, too, which is helpful.

Farmer Fred :

So you can start it indoors and then move it outside.

Matt Mattus :

Absolutely. I started cool though indoors I am I germinated in my greenhouse which like I said is the temperature of California, you're part of California.

Farmer Fred :

What are some of your favorite celtuce varieties to grow?

Matt Mattus :

Sadly in the US, there's only really one variety called spring tower that you can get from any of the few seed companies that carry it but I know this year in Baker Creek, they're offering a red leaf variety which I'm guessing is the same one that we saw in Asia I brought some seeds back and sent two more varieties to them to see if they want to propagate it but it's a there's a thick stem variety that is grown summer in the US I'm not sure where it because it shows up at the Asian market. It's almost three inches in diameter, but spring tower is the most common one. I think maybe a few seed catalogs may have red stem which is a red variety. The stem isn't red on the inside. It's only a red tint on the outside like a red leaf lettuce.

Farmer Fred :

The name of the book is Mastering the Art of vegetable gardening. It's by Matt Mattus and Matt profiles many of your favorite vegetables in the book, such as onions, garlic, asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, Swiss chard, the lettuces, carrots, beans, okra, and of course the standards tomatoes and peppers, as well as cucumbers and squash. It's really a beautiful book, well written. And like I say, his philosophy is outstanding. Treat your vegetable garden as your own private fantasy supermarket. and check out his blog as well. Growing with plants.com is where you will find it growing with plants dot com. and the name of the blog is growing with plants. Matt Mattus. Thanks for a few minutes of your time today.

Matt Mattus :

Thank you, Fred.

Farmer Fred :

A lot of gardeners are experts at planting and raising vegetables in the backyard garden. However, figuring out the best time to harvest those crops with optimum flavor and nutrition can be a guessing game. In addition, few gardeners know the best way to store those fresh veggies after they've been picked. Here's some tips from the home garden seed Association and the UC Davis department of post harvest technology for tomatoes: in most cases, they should be slightly soft when squeezed before picking and fully colored but there are exceptions. Large heirloom tomatoes can be prone to cracking and they are actually best picked before they have completely turned color. They'll continue to ripen after harvest. Store tomatoes on the kitchen counter out of direct light and heat in a vented plastic bowl or a perforated plastic bag. Tomatoes shouldn't be in the refrigerator, they won't ripen there and they'll lose their flavor. If you're picking a lot of green beans, pick them when they're long, slender and crisp before the seeds form lumps in the pods pick them off and has been scanned. Become tough and stringy on the vine store in the refrigerator in perforated plastic bags in the produce drawers, but you have to use them within a few days. Don't mix any fruits with vegetables in the same refrigerator drawer. The ethylene gas produced by the fruits is detrimental to the quality of nearby vegetables. And as you've probably figured out by now summer squash is best picked when it's small, small is better especially when it comes to zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, they're at their most tender when no bigger than four to six inches. Patty pan squash is best picked when only three inches or smaller, and you want to store those in the refrigerator. What about peppers? well, let them turn to their mature color on the plant. And that color might be red or yellow or orange. When it has those colors, It has maximum flavor, but check them daily as peppers deteriorate very quickly after reaching maturity. There's nothing wrong with picking and eating them when green though, but use your clippers. Don't pull them off the plant. They're best clipped when their firm and full sized. room temperature storage is best. However, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant can be kept in the refrigerator for one to three days, but you have to use them soon after removal from the refrigerator. What about melons? man Oh man, I bet you've heard the stories about how to tell if there's a ripe melon. Well, forget about thumping the melon to determine ripeness. watermelons turn a dull color when ripe, and the tendril that's closest to the fruit, It should be shriveling. For cantaloupes: The well defined netting will turn green to tan. honeydews develop a yellow blush on their ivory colored rinds and you want to store melons at room temperature. For egg plants, look for the nice reflective sheen when they're at their peak of readiness. size and color are not necessarily indicators of maturity. As eggplants get older, the skins get tough and dull and the flesh gets bitter. So you want to harvest eggplants as soon as they achieve that smooth, glossy finish. Eggplants lasts the longest, which is only a few days really, when stored at room temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees. Who has a room right now in the summertime at 50 to 55 degrees? Well good for you if you have a root cellar, but for the rest of us, well, don't put them in the refrigerator though. Just find a cool spot on the kitchen counter. And you want to avoid storing eggplant around any fruits that release ethylene gas. And that's apples, bananas, melons, and yes, tomatoes too. Now what about winter squash? now there's a confusing term: winter squash, as you may know, is planted around May maybe June, but it's not harvested until wintertime. Winter squash is sweetest when fully mature, it could be mid fall to winter. When it's ripe, the rind becomes hard and is no longer shiny. The way to test winter squash for readiness. Test it with your fingernail. If it can be scratched, but not punctured, It's mature and then cut the squash with the pruners leaving a short handle and let it cure in a warm space for 10 days before storing it in a cool dry place. Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday and it's available just about anywhere podcasts are handed out and that includes Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, I Heart Radio, overcast, Spotify, stitcher, tune-in and hey, Alexa, play the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, Would you please? Thank you for listening, subscribing and leaving comments. We appreciate it.

When to Fertilize Your Plants
Growing Celtuce
Peak Time for Harvesting Your Garden Crops. Storage tips.