Thursday, December 8, 2011

George Washington's Mangel Wurzel

Mangle Wurzel at Mt. Vernon in November.
We took the kids to Washington DC for 5 days of pure geeky pleasure over Thanksgiving.  Tons of fun was had by all.  But one funny looking plant with a big name at Mt. Vernon inspired me to get one of my projects off the back burner.

Mangel Wurzel is Swiss Chard.  When the roots are as big as the ones we saw at Mt. Vernon, they are only tasty to barn yard animals.  But the greens are quite yummy.  More subtle than turnip greens and just a little peppery.

Occupy the Garden?
The grownups at our house love greens, especially kale, chard and collards.  Seeing George Washington's Mangel Wurzle thriving in November made me come home and finally put together the little cold frame green house that had been living in my head.

The core of my garden is a row of 4' by 4' raised beds. I put another course of boards on the first container before adding old wheat straw and a few bags of compost to the soil.  Each planting my beds get a little higher up off of their base of red clay.

Peas and a string trellis for the kids to enjoy.
The top of the greenhouse is made up of 2' by 4' trellises which I built this spring for the tomatoes. I leaned them against each other and tied them at the top to a 4' piece of bamboo to lend some stability.

The plastic is a painters drop cloth left over from another project.  So far the staples have held nicely.

At first I fretted that plastic was too opaque but I drove by a professional green house the other day.  Their roof looked milky white compared to mine so I think I'm fine.

I started to over engineer the access sides of the greenhouse but I stopped myself.  Instead of hinges or pegged panels I ended up not trimming the excess plastic.  There was enough on both sides to fold like wrapping paper triangles at the ends of a package and fasten with a small alligator clamp.  Easy peasy.  I love a project that does not require a run to Home Depot.

Look Ma!  First leaves!
 I dream of tomatoes in the winter but played it safe the first go round.  Last week I planted mangel wurzle, kale, basil, deer tongue lettuce and peas.  Today I took a peek.  The kale, basil and deer tongue lettuce are sprouting.

Boxer burrowed under her house this year.
So far we have only had a little frost on the ground and lows of 31.  But colder weather is coming.  My turtle tells me so.

I also checked on Boxer the box turtle today.  It rained a lot yesterday.  She took advantage of the softened soil and dug her burrow a few inches deeper.  Hopefully my seedlings and the box turtle stay snug and happy in the garden over the coming winter.  Fingers crossed.

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