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What should Wheaton Labs plant? YOU DECIDE  RSS feed

 
jesse markowitz
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Location: Hudson Valley, NY
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Jesse the Gapper here-

We are putting plans together on food systems for the upcoming growing season.

One thing Paul wants is a list of fast growing, cold loving edibles that we can plant that will lower the food bill ASAP. We're thinking seed in the grown to in the kitchen within 90 days. Keep in mind that lots of these plants will be in newish garden patches, so the soil won't be amazing either.

Here's what I'm thinking off the top of my head-

Kale
Swiss Chard
Radishes
Peas
Nettles
Loose Leaf lettuce
Sage
Mint
Lavender

Kind of a lame list. I'm not even sure of what varieties of any of those to get.

Anyone have any ideas? Anything glaring that is missing from my list? Keep in mind, we're in zone 5.

Thanks in advance!
 
Craig Dobbson
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collards
turnips
kohlrabi
cabbage
beets
carrots
chives
rosemary
broccoli
parsley
bunching onions (greens)
dandelion
cress
endive
good king Henry
radichio
sorrel
mustard
lambs quarters
 
Patrick Mann
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I wouldn't call any of the herbs fast growers; and they don't really contribute a lot of substance to feed folks. Starches contribute the most calories. And the only fast-growing, cold-loving one I can think of is peas. Start them indoors for a super early harvest. Snow peas and pea vines ... lots of them ... and they improve the soil at the same time. That's my advice.
 
nancy sutton
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potatoes? lots?
 
Jd Gonzalez
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Fava Beans (nitrogen fixers)
Bush Beans (nitrogen fixers) 40 to 50 days ready to harvest
carrots
zucchini
Summer squashes i.e. Yellow Crookneck squash (42 days)
 
Patrick Mann
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nancy sutton wrote:potatoes? lots?
The original challenge was 90 days from sowing to harvesting. That rules out a ton of stuff, including potatoes. I don't think that allows for much besides leafy greens - bok choi, tatsoi, spinach, etc. Radishes also come to mind - you can stir fry them for a change of pace; or turn them into kimchi. And I still think peas are the most nutritious thing you can grow in a short time during the early garden season.
 
Dan Boone
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I am not seeing on your list: leaf lettuce. Not a lot of calories or sustenance, but they grow fast and make acceptable salads.

I grew up in a sub-arctic place with cold soils and about a 90-100 day growing season in total, last freeze to first freeze. Radishes (little red ones) were always our first edible, but nobody seems to eat very many radishes.

The leaf lettuces and peas (edible-pod varieties first) came soon after. We ate a lot of both.

We typically "planted out" on May 15 and had a lot of produce by July but it was mostly stuff that my mom started indoors or grew in the greenhouse. She pre-started most of our brassicas (turnips, kohrlrabi, cabbage, beets, broccoli, all of which came in starting in August, but the seeds probably got germinated as early as April 1). In direct-seeded outdoor edibles that we were eating in 90 days, by far the most notable were the potatoes. Normally we planted seed potatoes in May and tried to baby them into mid-September, but the goal was to see them flower by the 4th of July and we always took some early tubers ("new potatoes") starting in August. The fingerling varieties (we called the "Swede potatoes") seemed to be ready before the larger round varieties. New potatoes are awesome because they are tenderer than fully-mature tubers, but of course you take a yield hit harvesting them before they are done or freeze out.

Hope something here helps.
 
Jessica Padgham
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Cilantro and basil to go along with your mint for Vietnamese/Thai inspired dishes. Basil isn't cold loving but it might do ok on the warm sides of hugels.
 
Dan Boone
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I cross-posted with Patrick and then wondered why he was emphatically ruling out potatoes while I was busy ruling them in. My memories are old and possibly faulty so I thought I'd do some googling around, and I think I have figured out where/why we diverged.

It turns out that varieties of potatoes make a huge difference. I found a seed company advertising Yukon Gold potatoes (which is similar to the types we were growing, and we were literally about a mile from the actual Yukon river) and claiming that they are for harvest "closer to 70 days than to 90, and far ahead of the 100 to 110 typical of midseason types." So if Patrick was talking about the more typical types and I was thinking of the thin-skinned northern types, we are both right. Except that I dunno if Yukon Golds and similar varieties will even grow well in Montana.
 
Matu Collins
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Green beans with corn and squash. Green beans produce a lot of satisfying food if you keep picking them. I'd plant popcorn and some winter, some summer squash. (You'll want to lower the food bills in the future too...)

 
D. Logan
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Everyone has ideas about what must be there vs what is just something to add. Certain veggies may get planted and go utterly unused if you don't check with the people who are going to have to be eating it. Two examples of this I see a lot are kohlrabi and eggplant. A lot of people don't seem to care for them (myself included on the first) or know what to do with them. Done right or given to someone who already loves them, they are great additions though. A good way to know what is best to plant is to look at what you use the most of while buying things.

For me I can go down a list of things I use in a lot of different recipes (Onions, garlic, peppers, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, etc) and then add a number of things I just really like to make even though I don't always use them frequently (Cabbage, swiss chard, spinach, corn, squash, kale, etc). Heavy producers are also a good choice since you get a lot of bang for your buck (Beans, zucchini, etc). Herbs are more important than you might think too. Perennial and self-seeding herbs don't need much attention and provide all you could need from one or two plants. They offer a lot of variety to dishes and expand your options on working with what you have on hand. These are just some thoughts to consider when setting up the list.

As for the potato debate, consider that not only do some produce storage potatoes in a shorter time than others, but also that most varieties can produce 'new potatoes' for fresh use in that amount of time. New potatoes won't last in storage, but are delicious for immediate use. Sweeter than normal since the starches aren't completely converted either. If you favored new potatoes as the summer/fall starch and stick with dry beans as the favored option in the winter months, it could work out fine in a short growing season.
 
Dave Burton
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I think the Plants For A Future Database may be useful for seeing what options may be available for planting. The website does not store results, so you will have to enter the data yourself. For my first query, I selected the filters edibility rating 3, 4, and 5 along with USDA zones 3 and 4 and growth rate fast. This query provided 3 pages of results. The filters can be changed for various other things you are looking.

Some of the things it suggested were:
-garlic chives
-giant sunflower
-jerusalem artichoke
-hydrangea
-oregon grape
-willow herb
-watercress
-silver weed
-black locust
-comfrey
-spinach
-coltsfoot

The Plants For a Future Database has detailed articles on many of the plants listed and gives links to suppliers, too. Maybe their database can spark some ideas.
 
S Bengi
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mint family: oregano, mint, sage, thyme, etc
grain family: corn, popcorn, etc
spinach family: beet, swiss chard, spinach, amaranth, lamb quarters, etc
tomato family: irish potatoes, cherry tomatoes, maybe even peppers
cabbage family: radish, turnips, cabbage, kale, collard greens, etc
bean family: bush bean, pole bean, green pea, etc
onion family: garlic, leeks, chives, ramps, onion, etc
rose family: strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc
squash family: winter squash, cantaloupe, melon, etc
carrot family: parsnip, carrots, cilantro, etc

I am pretty sure I am leaving out the sunflower seed+root+lettuce family,

 
Chris Knipstein
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If you want something that produces a lot, zucchini and yellow summer squash are great choices.

In an area that is usually to wet to plant in the early spring, along the edge of field I planted around 100 zucchini and 100 yellow squash this last year on Fathers day just for fun. The first picking I gave away squash to just about everyone I knew. The left over 542 pounds of that first picking went to the food bank. Followed by another round of giving away and another 450 pounds to the food bank 4 days later. The yellows out produced the zucchini sometimes having 6+ squash per plant compared to 1-3 zucchini per plant. It kept going like that all summer until the area flooded for a couple weeks, after that about 50% died off but the rest kept producing right until the frost.

My mom found a weight watcher recipe for vegetarian chili soup. Really just a basic chili soup, no meat and then a lot of zucchini and yellow squash diced rather small. I'm more of a meat and potatoes type but I loved this stuff. I was thinking of experimenting this year with a big solar dehydrator with thoughts of trying to use dried squash to make that chili in the winter. It might be something you could try out there as well seeing as you have a lot of people to feed through the winter, and you could use it for a lot of other dishes as well.



 
jesse markowitz
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Great! Thanks everyone!
 
nancy sutton
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A Missoula Garden Planting / Harvesting calendar... looks like the plants on this list 'work' .. but maybe Lab is a colder zone.

http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/MT/Missoula

and another...

https://allthingsplants.com/apps/calendar/?q=Missoula,%20MT
 
Penny Dumelie
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Lola Rosa is a great lettuce variety with curled, frilled leaves. Rich in Vit C and A with a nice flavor. And it's purple!
It looks great in a salad.
I planted some three years ago, letting a couple plants seed out. I've had volunteer plants each year since.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:collards Aphids
chives
sorrel
mustard


I'm doing a bit more emphasis on that over here a few other things of course - all these suggestions are great...

I really want to work more with sorrel. I may have even had one survive on me even though it was a half dead basement bargain which I slammed into the ground a week before it froze solid for the first time.

Edited: to reflect personal experience and cover up an error - bolded text my own emphasis inserted into CraigW.'s quote
 
William Bronson
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What are the traditional solutions?
Preserved foods? Trapped /hunting/gathering?
lichens?
 
Russell Olson
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Turnips- The most underrated root vegetable. Good greens, good roots, grows anywhere, lives through hard freezes, in fact tastes better after frost. One plant can produce a ton of seed for the next season. If nothing else, chop/drop/compost excess.

Radishes- Same as above but even quicker growing, deeper root, but not a staple food.

Mustard-Spicy greens, grows anywhere, also essentially freeze hardy.

Parsnips-A bit longer but a nice food for roasting/soups/etc. Also self seeding and deep rooted for soil loosening. I collected a gallon ziploc baggie of seed from 3 plants I forgot to harvest last year.

Sorrel- Perennial lemon flavored greens, first thing to pop up in my garden in a similar climate to you. Produces ample seed for planting more, again excess can be chopped/dropped/composted.

A choice winter squash variety or three would be good. I've had great success with Tennessee sweet potato which I think is a cushaw squash, buttercup, and butternut. Pumpkins too. I'm always testing out new winter squash types because there's got to be a few good fits for cooler summers.

Chocolate mint, peppermint, etc are always good growers.

Potatoes, beets, chard, peas, etc. One cayenne pepper plant makes enough red chili flakes for a year.

Chickpeas might be a good fit for your climate, I've heard they grow well in dry cool areas.
 
Peter Ellis
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Wondering about the priorities. You asked for cold loving, then included lettuce, which I don't think of as a cold weather crop, as compared to brassicas or peas, for example.
Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes - not cold loving at all, quite the other way.
So, are you looking for the first wave of things to get into the ground and get food from as quickly as possible?
Or are you looking for anything in the food family that will produce in its first season in The Lab climate?

Garlic, onions, leeks will all take the cold and can be started early and at least produce greens for flavoring dishes in short order.
Spinach can be started pretty early.
You can do bean sprouts in the kitchen year round, but you need loads of beans suited for sprouting and eating.

Might look at what the Inca grew - quinoa, amaranthe, mache (spelling?), potatoes.

Lots of good choices that are not early starts but will produce in the summer and on into fall, and of course you want to think about how well they store or can be prepared for storage.

Cabbage can start early, but generally not producing early, otoh can be very goid keepers and pickled will last a very long time.
Perennials like Walking Onions and Jerusalem artichokes may not get you out of the gate fast this year, but put you ahead of the game for next year.
Peas have been mentioned and were a broadacre staple crop in Europe for ages. We do not use them nearly as extensively today.
Carrots, can start pretty early and harvest at multiple stages, and they can keep pretty well too.

Turnips were Europe's potato before the New World.

Think about multipurpose plants, like beets and turnips, where you can eat the greens and later the root crops. Amaranth, leaves and seeds. Many more I am sure.
 
Su Ba
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I suspect that planting into non-productive soil is going to be your greatest limiting factor. A lot of the suggestions so far include vegetables that produce well in fertile soil with warm weather, something that the lab may not be blessed with.

Have you considered using plastic covers to increase the temperature of the growing crop plus elevating soil temperature? Either simple plastic tunnels or even just a sheet of plastic laid atop a bed of greens? I often need to resort to a sheet of clear plastic laid over a freshly seeded bed in order to promote good, fast germination.

In my experience, greens produce edible food quickly in cool springs. Greens are versatile. Besides fresh salad, they can be used in a stir fry medley, dropped into soups and stews, added to omelets, blended into smoothies. All sorts of cool weather greens are available, including things you might not normally think of --- beet, chard, turnip, kohlrabi, collard, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, rat tail radish, daikon, pea tendrils, lettuce (needs some frost protection, like plastic sheeting), bok choy, mustard, kale, Chinese kale, assorted Chinese greens, Portuguese cabbage, carrot, parsley, onion, chives. While things like cabbage and cauliflower may not produce heads in poor soil, they will give you greens to use in the kitchen.

Some crops will traditionally produce for you, including radishes, daikon, carrot, early varieties of potatoes, turnip, beets, peas, early varieties of cabbage and broccoli, lettuce, bok choy. If you're willing to use plastic tunnels, you should be able to get good growth in spite of cool spring temperatures.

Have sprouted seed been considered? Sprouts produce a food source quickly. If I were hungry, I'd produce sprouts while I was waiting for the radishes and greens to become available. Sprouts are versatile, good for fresh, in stir fry, soups, stews, sautéed, omelets, smoothies. Lots of things can be sprouted including radish, kale, collard, cabbage, broccoli, beans, peas, corn, alfalfa, onion, and plenty more. A 50 lb sack of whole corn or whole wheat isn't all that expensive and would produce a goodly amount of fresh tasting sprouts. I produce my own radish and bok choy seed for sprouts because its so insanely easy. Same with peas, bean, and garlic chives.
 
rosemary schmidt
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ok well,
I know you said 90 days or less so it kind of throws out potatoes with the bathwater sort of thing.
But!
what if you planted potatoes anyway and just let them go while you reaped what you sewed 90 days ago?
Potatoes are always good and they will be there for when your next 90 day crop comes along and uh, well, they are yummy!
 
Michael Cox
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I get the comments about carbs, but I'd personally diverge slightly on the planting advice...

If you are looking to lower the food bill carbs are usually a cheap component of the costs. You can buy large sacks of grains, dried pulses, potatoes etc... at low prices; the catch is having appropriate storage for them. Assuming you can store and cook with such basics you can't get a more cost effective carb base for your meals.

On the other hand the ingredients that add flavour usually add expense - without talking about plants for your environment I'd be looking for vitamin/mineral/flavour rich "ingredient" plants. Back that up with quantities of stuff you can process (batches of saurkraut? etc...) but focus on getting these aspects sorted before calories/carbs...
 
Bill Erickson
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Dan Boone wrote:I cross-posted with Patrick and then wondered why he was emphatically ruling out potatoes while I was busy ruling them in. My memories are old and possibly faulty so I thought I'd do some googling around, and I think I have figured out where/why we diverged.

It turns out that varieties of potatoes make a huge difference. I found a seed company advertising Yukon Gold potatoes (which is similar to the types we were growing, and we were literally about a mile from the actual Yukon river) and claiming that they are for harvest "closer to 70 days than to 90, and far ahead of the 100 to 110 typical of midseason types." So if Patrick was talking about the more typical types and I was thinking of the thin-skinned northern types, we are both right. Except that I dunno if Yukon Golds and similar varieties will even grow well in Montana.


Yukon Golds, reds and such do grow fine in the Western Montana mountain soils. But the soil needs to be loosened a bit for them to develop properly.

All the beets, parsnips, turnips and such will grow well here. Radishes, various types of loose leaf lettuce, spinach and such do well in the short summer season. In fact, I generally plant starting at the end of May (last killing frost date) and will start pulling radishes, Nantes carrots, green onions, chive and such by the end of June, with greens and such rounding out the fare in July, with squashes/zucchinis/etc filling out the table until fruits start coming ripe in August/September and long term squashes and ground vegetables getting harvested in September/October when traditional first killing frosts are occurring.

Different methods for extending the seasons include, starting long season vegetables indoors in March/April for end of May planting with the use of cloches to protect from the random crazy frost, and doing the same with cloches/floating row covers to extend the season and getting the most out of broccoli/cauliflower and such.

Squashes that have done well for me - yellow crook necks, zucchini, butternut, acorn and such. Cabbage grows well, as does brussel sprouts and the like. Onions and garlic grow the best when planted in the fall.

There are lots of different things to grow on 90 days that aren't traditional vegetables as well - and those suggestions have been made above. Amaranth and lamb's quarters grow with great abandon in my yard and traditional garden bed - so much so that I would pull them and feed them to my pigs and chickens to keep them even mildly in control.
 
jesse markowitz
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rosemary schmidt wrote:ok well,
I know you said 90 days or less so it kind of throws out potatoes with the bathwater sort of thing.
But!
what if you planted potatoes anyway and just let them go while you reaped what you sewed 90 days ago?
Potatoes are always good and they will be there for when your next 90 day crop comes along and uh, well, they are yummy!


That's the plan! We'll plant a ton of stuff, but we want a list of stuff that'll specifically be able to help out with the food bill by the time the busy season rolls around here. So if we plant sometime early march, that'll mean by early june we should be harvesting lots of food, which also is around the time college students usually come out for WWOOFing.

Other people brought this up, and I agree: It'll be hard to grow stuff within 90 days that has lots of calories. However, what does grow that quickly are things that are very expensive per calorie- Leafy greens, lettuce, herbs for example. So I think our focus will be on those pricier guys, and hopefully more of the 'staple' crops will come in later on in the season.

Again, thanks for all the help! I'm looking into all of your suggestions
 
Peter Ellis
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In that case, don't forget buckwheat. I bet lots of those wwooffers eat Kash a .
 
Bill Erickson
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jesse markowitz wrote:
So if we plant sometime early march


I don't want to be a downer on this, but unless you are planting indoors or in a green house, I highly doubt you will be planting in March in the Missoula area.

This link is to an interactive "last frost date" map for Montana - it looks pretty accurate to me with my experience for outdoor planting up in the Flathead. There are plenty of others out there, and they all align pretty well with end of May to mid June as the planting dates. Unless there is a serious micro-climate variation at work already, I do not see March as a viable in the ground time frame. Is there some experience with that down there? I would suggest some cloche setups, hoop house/high tunnel setups and the like to bypass that freeze/frost limitation - it is very real and one of the reasons I am looking forward to seeing the experimental evidence to support a lemon tree growing outdoors in Montana.
 
Kate Muller
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I realize NH is going to have different growing conditions than the lab but I do have some favorite veggies that put up with our cold wet spring weather.

Sugar Ann Snap Peas. I have planted them between the end of March and the end of April depending one when the snow melts.
Bloomsdale spinach grows very well if planted 2 weeks after the peas.
Pac Choi, mustard greens, arugula and loose leaf lettuce all do very well as spring crops.
Evergreen Hardy White Scallion are awesome. They keep coming back year after year and tend to be one of the first things to start up in the spring.
Kale as baby greens is very easy for a spring crop. Seed heavy and thin throughout the season as the plants need more room.
Detroit Dark Red Beets (60 days)are a favorite around here for beets and beat greens.
Danvers or Scarlet Nantes carrots are the two favorite carrots for NH's rocky compacted soil. Both are less 70 to 75 days

A short season pickling cucumber would be a nice addition to salads.

For an early tomato I really like Subarctic. It is not as flavorful as a late season tomato but it will start producing 60 days or so after transplant, resists diseases, tolerates pour soil and lower levels of sunlight. It is my first tomato variety of the season.

I will be trying this sweet pepper form Baker's Creek this year. It is supposed to produce pepper's 60 days from transplant.
http://www.rareseeds.com/red-mini-bell/?F_All=Y

Fruition seeds in NY has quite a few short season seeds that are all grown and raised in the North East. They even have rice and peanuts and other hard to find goodies. http://www.fruitionseeds.com/

 
Max Madalinski
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Lettuces and goosefoots/spinach/beet plants would be at the top of my list. Also anything in the brassica family, but I think Broccoli Raab (I believe 30 days?), Mustards, and Arugula are some of the fastest yielders. I also am a fan of kohlrabi, but not a lot of other people like it.

When I think about what really gets me through the early cold months its all the semi "wild" edibles that pop up around the property. Nettles, Ramps, Lovage, Chives, perrennial rocket, Burdock, sorrel, Fiddlehead ferns, walking onions... but all these take time to get established so that you can harvest them. Japanese knotweed shoots are also quite tasty, but I certainly don't recommend planting them. We eat them out here in Southern VT as they're very opportunistic in our area and we like to do our part to help keep them in check.

I'd second the recommendation for Buckwheat as a fast grower, but you do have to wait til summer months to plant since it's not particularly cold hardy.
 
Ann Torrence
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Looking at this as an emergency "we need food now" situation, which is how I read your question, and then you will plant for the bulk as it warms up. A lot of things will grow if you can just get them to germinate, so maybe do some indoor germination of peas, beets and other easy to handle seeds on wet paper towels. As soon as you see that root break through the seed, in the garden it goes, don't wait even one day, which means the prep work has to be done first. You want bulk, so load up on fast beets and snap peas.

I'd start transplants of kale too. Harukai turnips, a hybrid but fast and very yummy, eating them like apples last month, could go in with the carrots. Arugula will come on quickly too. Radishes are fast but how many does anyone really want to eat? Meh. I use them mixed with carrots to remind me where I need to water, and that's enough.

I have fall planted spinach seeds with my garlic, and it germinated far earlier in the spring than I would have imagined, so if the beds are in place, you could sprinkle seeds on them any time you don't have snow and get something to come up so long as it doesn't dry out completely. Probably the same with mache.

I have not tried it, but if you are buying onions, it would cost nothing. I've read that you can plant the root end trimmed off before cooking and it will sprout new green onions. Wonder if you could activate the roots indoors, like starting sweet potato slips or an avocado pit? I might have to try that next time I cook an onion.

There's a reason why early spring is called the hungry season in many cultures. This is a hard challenge.
 
Matt Coventry
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I'm a big fan of Oregon Sugar pod II (bush snow peas). Great peas and the young (trim tops where leaves haven't flattened out yet) greens are quite delicious raw or stir fried in garlic. Good producer.
 
Celeste Solum
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As for our farm this year, we will be specializing in short season foods from Siberia, former USSR, and Italy. Last year we began our project with excellent success and so we are taking it to the next level this year. The crops go across the food species, some of each, many rare seeds.
 
Don Dufresne
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Amaranth might be useful.
 
Sally Orrisi
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I recently came across this interesting site with a recipe for radishes which are prolific, early and hard to use in bulk.
Enjoy!
Iam Knauer Radish Soup
 
Deb Rebel
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I'm going to address some 'how' along with the 'what'....

Looking for a sheltered south facing area and putting in a few backmounded walkin coldframes... then in those using floating row cover and growing in place in there... when weather turns warm enough you can lose first the low tunnel faking with the floating row cover then remove your glazing (sheet plastic or old windows) and finish up that stuff as your summer comes on; then in fall when your frost comes back at night, put the outer glazing back on and as needed go back to the floating row cover inside. A space 6' wide and 8' long and about 5-6' high, you can duck a little; can grow a LOT. Look up 'pit greenhouses' and you will find a lot of those sorts of designs.

http://www.inspirationgreen.com/pit-greenhouses.html ... beware a few of these links are booby-trapped I have found out, but. #11, 34, and 35 (last two are the last two pictures at the bottom) Avoid the onepinkhippie link

Also look up George Elliot's book on Four Season Harvest, he is growing in zone 4a or b, and in Maine, so less light than Montana sees in Winter. This book I have, and it was my original inspiration....

http://www.amazon.com/Four-Season-Harvest-Organic-Vegetables-Garden/dp/1890132276/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421877209&sr=1-1&keywords=four-season+harvest&pebp=1421877202500&peasin=1890132276

Add this to quick-to-grow cold season cropping. Missoula is 4a-b with altitude but you should be able to put this together and keep everyone fed. There are some good lists on this thread already of stuff you could get going fast.

Only word is I have problems with radishes, usually mine grow leaves not roots, I have a real issue with keeping the nitrogen down so they will make roots instead of leaves. I agree with growing peas, they grow fast, are very nutritious, and will work on improving your soil.
 
dara finnegan
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Hello? I live in Northeastern Minnesota. We have a ninety day season. I grow everything. Potatoes, several varieties, winter squash(direct seeded into the garden),tomatoes and leeks I start early along with peppers. I can't really think of anything that I can't plant except things like Quinoa. Why on earth do you think you can't grow anything in a ninety day growing season? I even get tons of dry beans. Really. I will be glad to give you seeds to get you started, I live in a zone three, and have lived here for twenty years. We have dry grinding corn we grow, more than one variety. There is no reason to think you are limited because you have a 90 day season, trust me. If you want some of the varieties I grow, my friends have seed catalogs that can get you started. One of them is called Seed Treasures, by Will and Jackie Clay. You just have to find the right varieties for short season areas. We get seeds from Fedco of Maine. Sand Hill Preservation center. Also just found Solstice Seeds. Good luck. All of them are for short season areas.
 
William Bronson
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Are there any already growing forage plants that could be run through chickens and/or rabbits to make protein?
 
Deb Rebel
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Seeing the last poster, yes... I grew up in zone 3a (barely) and we had a 60 day window, between possible frosts. You can grow a lot in 60 days. In 4a to b with some season management (coldframes, floating row covers, and starting plants early) you should be able to squeak two short season plant growing seasons. I'm in 6b with altitude right now (and snowing as I type) and I can get 270 days if I try with some early starting and coldframe management (and a few heat tapes in the ground and mini hoop houses I can crawl into).

Better bang on your coldframes is to do them with used windows, and cover them at dark. I'm assuming though at the Lab what you want is to extend season and get something on your table fast early in spring and keep it going late in fall.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I'd like to mention oats and barley. Both germinate in cool soil and don't mind getting frozen solid, they'll still grow some more.

Also like to mention that the date of last frost only applies to the warm season things. You just can't get tomatoes and peppers and eggplants to be very happy til the slil warms up. I'm with the poster who said warm the soil... any way that's handy for you.

Also, though it won't germinate til the soil is warm, I second or third the idea of Amaranth. The leaves are good to eat and so is the grain. I enjoy "opopeo" and other red varieties. Opopeo is my favorite because it has large leaves instead of tiny ones, it grows tall, making it beautiful from a distance, makes huge seed heads, and if you are late to bring the seed in, it reseeds itself.

A great addition to the garden is the perennial called 'salad burnet' or 'small burnet'. Once established it is a great wild green, doesn't go away when the snow comes or first frost, grows knee high, and it's a good forage plant for goats. Another wild green that I eat in small amounts is evening primrose. We have a variety in western colorado that will grow 5 or 6 feet high. Birds eat the seeds, goats eat the leaves and seed heads, the roots are said to be edible, and the leaves don't freeze up and die at low temperatures, I like to put a few leaves in the soup or green smoothie. Don't forget alfalfa, plant it, let it grow, it will return forever. Pick and dry the tips for winter green smoothies and to season your broth. Parsley too. I'm in favor of as many perennials as you can get! Start them this year too! I think you'll be glad if you get your raspberries and blackberries going this year.

On the list of herbs, has anyone said lemon balm? It doesn't mind the cold, comes back every year.

It's exciting to me, just to think about the first season on new ground.

Go for it!

Thekla
 
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