On the first Saturday in March of 2004, Gladys and I had our first column published. We were not sure if we would have enough to say in order to go weekly through the summer and fall. Then we wondered about the winter. Is there enough about gardening to continue every week?  But here we are seven years later. 

          We are grateful to you, the readers, for your support and encouragement.  I am continually amazed how many people say they have read a particular article, have cut out an article to save, or have sent it on to a friend. 

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          A few years ago our neighbors introduced me to Kohlrabi when he brought me a round, flattened pale green object with purple on the outside and reminded me of a space ship. I have found they can hardly ever be found in a grocery store. I have never tied to cook them but slice or cube them to eat raw. They do well in salads. They are juicy and crunchy, and taste like a mixture of cucumber and carrot. Seeds are available for spring planting.  I hear people also eat the leaves. I haven’t tried that yet as I don’t like spinach.

          A cucumber that isn’t a cucumber but a melon was fun to try. Also known as Armenian cucumber, Yard Long Cucumber, and Snake cucumber. It is long, thin skinned, crisp and mild. I had mine on a trellis so they would grow straight as they hang down. You get many same size slices to go with sour cream?

          Cobaea is a purple or white annual flowered vine that can climb twelve feet in one summer.  It was found in the thickets of Mexico, usually called Cup and Saucer Vine or Cathedral Vine (Cobaea scandens). The seeds are large and take a good while to get started so start as soon as safe. I have started them inside in April in pots that can be planted too.  They have large branched tendrils with hooks. The blooms are large bells (2x4 inches) that appear green but turn dark purple. They like a good amount of water and a frequent weak fertilizer in full sun but protection  from the wind.

          This year I bought seed of “Beet Berries” (Chenopodium rapitatum) that I had never heard of.  The catalog says they are good eating but I will have to let you know. An annual they are also known as Goosefoot, Strawberry Goosefoot, Strawberry Spinach, Indian Paint and Indian Ink. It is a native of the United States but endangered in some States. Flowers are small, pulpy, bright red and edible. The juice was used as a dye by the Native Americans.

          We eat the flower when we eat Artichokes. On January 20, 2011, I started the seeds of an Artichoke. I chose Imperial Star as it is the only one who will bloom as an annual here in Nebraska. The others I know about are perennial but not hardy here. This one needs a long season in order to bloom (purple). It is a big plant so give it plenty of room.  I grow them for the blooms so don’t know about the taste. Each seed costs about 13 cents  If you know of a better one for Nebraska, please let me know. Just e-mail or send a letter to the editor.

          I started a small patch of Fennel (Foeniculum sp). The Butterflies I have noticed on it are the Swallowtails who also like Dill. There are several Fennels that do well, depending on how you use of them.  Fennel vulgare is a perennial that may grow 6 feet tall. Both leaves and seeds are used in cooking and is also listed as medicinal. The stalks form a bulb like form, all of which is sliced into salads, soups and in potatoes.

          One of the more popular plants in my yard is Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium species) that comes in various sizes. I have the tallest one  (Eupuripureum) which likes water. It can grow 7 feet tall with huge purple clusters of flowers.  Adult Butterflies like this plant. I have seen seven or eight different varieties on the same plant. Plant hybridizers have developed a short one if you  don’t like the large one.

          My next seeds to be planted are Kobea as they are slow to get started. They are big (1 inch) flat seeds and the package says “soak in warm water for 24 hours before planting”. In a bucket I placed potting mix and watered it good and checked the next day to be sure it is damp all the way through. I then filled 3 inch plastic pots 3/4 full, pressing it down gently. On top of that there is seed starting medium almost to the top, and also pre-dampened. The pots are in a tray with holes inside another tray that holds water so when I water it will not keep the soil soaked. These are on top of a heat mat. When plants are up, I will move the pots off the heat mat  and place under lights for 14 to 16 hours per day. The lights should be no more than 2 to 3 inches above the top of the plant. Kobeas will start to climb very early and need a stick or tiny trellis.  By April I may be able to move plants outside on top of straw bales, and then bringing into the garage at night so they don’t freeze. This hardens them off for planting on May. The rabbits really like these unprotected plants on top of the bales so plant enough to share.

Copyright 2011