Easing into the Spring Planting

April 17, 2018 Posted by: Jan Elder and Ellen Jones
March 2018

Last year we were over-enthusiastic in planting the cool-weather vegetables, leaving little room for warm-weather vegetables such as beans, tomatoes, corn, squash, and cucumbers. (Any gardener knows it is easy to plant too many vegetable seeds!) We found space for the beans, tomatoes, corn, and cucumbers, but the squash was planted late. We tried planting seeds and also squash plants that had been started in pots. The seeds did not germinate and the young plants were killed by the hot summer temperatures; no squash were harvested in 2017.

This year we will plant shorter rows of early vegetables—such as cabbage, onions, and spinach, leaving enough space to start the later vegetables when they should be planted. (At least, we will try to follow the plan!)

In 2017 the early crops were planted by late March, but Jan's schedule (a trip to England) and the unpredictable weather has delayed planting in 2018. We hope to plant the early vegetables during the first week of April.

Vegetables we plan to grow this year include some we have successfully grown in the past, such as:
Golden Butterwax Bush Bean—introduced by D. M. Ferry & Co. in 1876.

Old Homestead/Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean—originally known as Texas Pole, dates to 1864.

Crosby's Egyptian Beet—introduced in America in 1869, recommended by New York seedsman Peter Henderson (1822-1890) in 1871.

Late Flat Dutch Cabbage—sold commercially by Peter Henderson in late 1860's; also mentioned by Fearing Burr, Jr. in his 1863 book The Field and Garden Vegetables of America.

Boston Pickling Cucumber—available from T. W. Wood & Sons of Richmond, Virginia, by 1880.

Tom Thumb Lettuce—dates to 1850's, originally from England.

Wethersfield Red Onion—derives name from Wethersfield, Connecticut, where it was extensively cultivated in 19th century; mentioned by Fearing Burr in 1863.

French Breakfast Radish—listed in a seed catalog in Massachusetts in 1875.

Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach—grown by Thomas Jefferson.

Fordhook Acorn Squash—varieties of squash were obtained from Native American tribes in 17th-19th centuries; this variety commercially available late 19th century. (We grew this squash in 2016 and it took over half of the garden…and produced a "bumper crop" of squash.)

Large Red Tomato—mentioned by Fearing Burr, Jr. in 1863.

Missouri Love Apple Tomato—probably of the "Apple Tomato" variety mentioned by Fearing Burr in 1863.

Yellow Pear-Shaped Tomato—mentioned by Fearing Burr, Jr. in 1863, who stated “…little used except for preserving and pickling.” (We disagree…a good summer treat!)

White Egg Turnip—available from John Russell of Boston in 1828 as "Swan's Egg"..

We also plan to try some other heritage varieties to see how well they grow in the Fort Larned area of Kansas, such as:

Jacob's Cattle Bush Bean—old New England bean from Passamaquoddy tribe in Maine.

Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean—carried by Cherokees when they were moved to Oklahoma in 1839. (Jan tried this variety in her own eastern Kansas garden in 2017 and it was very productive; we hope it will be as productive at Fort Larned!)

deGrace Snow Peas—grown in America by 1836.

Prussian Blue Peas—grown by Thomas Jefferson.

There are also three varieties we are planning to "revisit". The first one—Bloody Butcher Corn—grew well last year and we are considering alternating it with the Blue Hopi Corn we have grown in past years.

Bloody Butcher Corn—originated in Virginia in 1840's. (Seeds of this variety were given to us last year as our corn did not germinate due to unseasonable cold and wet conditions. Although the Bloody Butcher was planted late, it germinated and successfully produced corn. Unfortunately, all the corn was harvested by local raccoons!)

Stowell's Evergreen Corn—originally developed by Nathaniel Stowell of Burlington, New Jersey, in 1848. (We have had mixed results with growing sweet corn, but decided to give it another try.)

Nutmeg Melon—Fearing Burr stated in 1863 "…has been long in cultivation…". (We tried growing this melon in 2016—the summer we had such a productive crop of Acorn and Sibley Squash—but the melon was unsuccessful. In late summer we realized the melon was unsuccessful because it was buried under the Sibley Squash vines. We decided to try it again—with enough space to grow!)

In April 1874, Assistant Surgeon S. G. Cowdrey reported: "Garden ploughed and planted. The officers longest at the post thinking to make sure of a crop; planted a great many onions; using the sets; with what result will be seen by and by."

The onions we will be planting this year will be sets (small onions). These sets are from onion seed that Jan grew last year; the small bulbs were pulled in the Fall and stored in a cool place all winter. (The "cool place" that works well for storing the small onion bulbs over winter is the bottom shelf of a refrigerator.)

A most important task when we plant the early vegetables in April will be re-installing the "Bunny Fence". This "fence" is made from old sheets and drapery lining and is attached to the inside of the trellis fence that surrounds the garden. Once the "Bunny Fence" is in place, the trellis fence apparently looks "solid" to "bunnies"; it has successfully kept small hungry rabbits out of the garden for three years. We are hoping the fence will fool the rabbits again this year!

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Last updated: April 17, 2018

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