Sunday, May 31, 2009

From Bell to Berry

Muffins, pies, pancakes, and smoothies all made better by blueberry the superfruit. Blueberry bushes also make for some great edible landscaping with their pink and white bell shaped flowers, sweet fruit, and fall color. They can be grown as a tall hedge if the right varieties are chosen and are a favorite among the birds.

We planted 3 varieties (6 bushes in total) this year, all high bush:
Toro- Large, firm, mild tasting mid-season producer. Nice fall color.
Jersey- this variety is a late season producer offering up some medium size sweet dark blue berries. These are my favorite for muffins. Also provides beautiful fall foliage.
Bluecrop- Better for fruit production than for ornamental value. Produces large sweet fruit, mid-season variety.

The bushes were planted in a space intensive manner. They will grow together into one large bush of 3 varieties if all goes as planned. I have seen this method used by folks on the West Coast who grow them in half whiskey barrels. Below is a great link to a variety chart for anyone interested in using blueberries for food or landcaping.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Garden Notes

Picked up 4 straw bales and some potash. Spread potash over potatoes, onions, and carrots. Mulched around tomatoes and peppers with straw. pH not budging from the 6.0 range in the potato bed despite continuous addition of sulfur. 2 or 3 straw bales will be planted for squash or melons in the dog kennel next weekend, row cover not keeping bugs off of muskmelon seedlings. Cukes setting flowers; cukes & eggplants under cloches much larger than those without. Spinach growing at a snails pace. Leeks transplanted out. Something seems to be eating carrot seedlings- slugs?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mother Earth News

Today I received my first issue of Mother Earth News and I can not wait to get into it, especially the bit on beans. I have many varieties of beans to experiment with this season and zero experience.

How to sow carrots in a SFG

STEP 1: Fold a roughly 12"x12" section of newspaper into 16 squares. Place a dot of school glue in the center of each square and drop a seed(s) into it. Allow to dry.
STEP 2: Remove up to a 1/2 inch of soil in plot where carrots will be going. Lay down newspaper, glue side down and cover with removed soil. Water in.
I go one step further and cover my carrots with burlap. This helps keep them moist between watering (usually twice a day) until they sprout and begin to grow up through the burlap at which time it is removed.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Melons and Beans

Lots of melon and bean varieties were sown today. We are having to be creative with the melons since my original plan of trellising them up on the deck was foiled when we realized today that the containers were not getting enough sun. The larger trees have really spread their canopies over the last year, so, new plan- dog kennel set up in the side yard next to the remaining heap of compost we bought from the horse farm.

I planted three Eel River Muskmelon seedlings (90-100 days) that were succession sown over the last 2-6 weeks in the sides of the pile and scattered a motley crew of seeds (Early Silverline, Noir des Carmes, Green Nutmeg, Savor Charentais, all 75-80 days) over the top and watered them in. They are all under row cover, hoping they will get enough sun and the heap will provide lots of juicy heirloom melons come August and September.

One container was also planted for the kennel using 2/3's potting mix, 1/3 compost and 1 1/2 cups Azomite. Black plastic mulch and row covers are being used to provide warmth and to keep the bugs at bay.

Bean varieties sown today:
  • Fin de Bagnol Shoestring, Bush
  • Empress Snap, Bush
  • Hutterite Soup Bean, Bush
  • Sultan's Golden Crescent, Pole
  • Pencil Pod Wax, Pole

Name That Bug

Hmmm......This little fella has been caught creeping around on my tomatoes.

Can't find him in 'Good Bug Bad Bug' and it is one of the strangest bugs I have ever seen. Looks like a shell with antennae.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pistou Basil

Recently my Pistou Basil arrived from The Cook's Garden. It is an attractive plant to add to the garden and it tastes wonderful. The fragrance and taste are more mild than a traditional basil. It's leaves which more closely resemble thyme than basil in size have been wonderful sprinkled over a mixed green salad with a bit of crumbled feta, raisins, and my favorite Brianna's Blush Wine Viniegrette dressing.

Pistou is a french version of pesto:

Pistou From Wikipedia
Pistou sauce, or just pistou, is a cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. Some more modern versions of the recipe include grated parmesan, pecorino or similar hard cheeses. Traditionally, the ingredients are crushed and mixed together in a mortar with a pestle, (pistou means pounded in the Provençal language). It is often confused with pesto with which it shares some of the same ingredients, the key difference being absence of pinoli (pine nuts), from pistou. It is a typical condiment from the Provence region of France that can be served with pasta dishes or as a spread for bread. But it is most often associated with the Provencal dish Soupe au Pistou, a minestrone like summer soup that includes white beans, green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, potatoes, and vermicelli. These ingredients can be left out or replaced as long as the soup's golden rule about summer vegetables is followed. Thus Pistou soup is not made with, for example, leeks. Some recipes incorporate the pistou into the soup just before serving. Others recommend offering the sauce at the table to be added after the soup is served.
Both pistou and pesto probably share the same origins. The Roman poet
Virgil describes a sauce of crushed herbs, garlic, salt, and olive oil. A version with pinoli emerged around Genoa to become pesto, while pistou evolved in the areas around Nice.

Next year I will be sure to order a packet of seeds, this herb is already a favorite in my house!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nasturtium Recipes

After learning nasturtiums can be used for more than salads I decided to do some investigating. These recipes caught my eye.......

Nasturtium Lemon Butter

This lovely butter has a mild lemon/pepper flavor and a colorful appearance. It is wonderful on fish, chicken and vegetables. This is also great on those small party breads, pumpernickel especially.

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (according to taste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped nasturtium blossoms
Mix all of the ingredients well until smooth and well blended. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Makes 3/4 cup flavored butter.

Nasturtium and Potato Soup

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
25-30 nasturtium leaves, stems removed
4 cup chicken broth (or water)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
nasturtium blossoms for garnish

Melt the butter in a stock pot. Add the onion and cook until soft but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes and nasturtium leaves and continue cooking until the leaves are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and milk to the stock pot. Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper, then bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and discard. Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Serve garnished with fresh nasturtium blossoms. Makes 6 servings

Friday, May 22, 2009

Edible Landscaping

Typically I do annuals in my whiskey barrels that border the drive, this year I opted for a combination of flowers and food in the 3 barrels that get full sun. Last weekend each barrel received 2 squash varieties, chard, and a mix of flowers with the sunflower intended to be the tall (24-36 inches) focal point in the center.


  • Marina Di Chioggia Squash

  • Baby Blue Hubbard Squash
  • Butternut Metro PMR Squash
  • Swiss Chard (Bright Lights)
  • Sunflower (Bashful)
  • Snowdrift Marigold
  • Nasturtium (Jewel Mix & Trailing)

The dwarf sunflowers should be the only non-edible out of the bunch. Nasturtium flowers can be stuffed with a soft cheese (who knew?) or used along with the leaves to provide a peppery punch in a salad. Not sure if all marigolds are edible, will have to double check this variety before adding it to our plate. I am not usually a fan of edible flowers but I will try anything once if I can stuff it with fabulous cheese.

How to remove a tick

I just received this in an e-mail and thought I should post it here for safe keeping in case it actually works. I know eventually I will need to give it a try before the winter freeze kills off the little buggers.

TICK REMOVAL>>>> Spring is here and the ticks will be showing their heads.>>>> Here is a good way to get them off you, your children,or your pets. Give >> it>> a try.>>>> Please forward to anyone with children... Or hunters or dogs,or anyone >> who>> even steps outside in summer!!>> A School Nurse has written the info below-- good enough to share --And >> it>> really works!!>>>> I had a pediatrician tell me what she believes is the best way to remove >> a>> tick. This is great, because it works in those places where it's >> sometimes>> difficult to get to with tweezers:between toes, in the middle of a head>> full of dark hair, etc.>>>> Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball, cover the tick with the>> soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20), the tick>> will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift >> it away.>>>> This technique has worked every time I've used it(and that was >> frequently),>> and it's much less traumatic for the patient and easier for me.>>>> Unless someone is allergic to soap, I can't see that this would be >> damaging>> in any way. I even had my doctor's wife call me for advice because she >> had one>> stuck to her back and she couldn't reach it with tweezers. She used this>> method and immediately called me back to say, "It worked!">>>> Please pass on. Everyone needs this helpful hint.>>

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sexy In So Many Ways

Asparagus- member of the Lily family, nutritional hero, natural detoxifier and rumored aphrodisiac. Who wouldn't want a piece of that? I know I do.

The MAA suggests that "any preparation for planting asparagus should begin no later than the year before you plan to plant". Well call me impatient but I would actually like to harvest some asparagus before 2013 so I began preparation mere months ahead. In order to get ready for the Jersey Supreme (Johnny's) and Jersey Giant (Asparagus Gardener) crowns that were to arrive we filled the extra deep asparagus bed half way with a mixture of loam, compost, sand, lime and Azomite. We went heavy on the compost but added enough sand to ensure good drainage as asparagus likes a rich sandy soil.

The 2 year crowns from The Asparagus Gardener arrived first, followed by the 1 year crowns from Johnny's. I was pleased with the Jersey Giant crowns until I got a look at the Jersey Supremes which were in much better condition than the supposed 2 year crowns ordered from The Asparagus Gardener. The roots were plump and 6-12 inches in length but had broken dormancy during shipping. All 25 crowns were transplanted in on mounds 4-6 inches high and back filled with soil to 2 inches above the crowns within hours of their arrival. Crown spacing is as close to 1 per square foot as I could manage. I was nervous to bury the emerging spears but used a gentle hand and within a few days (and an e-mail to Johnny's) they had risen from the earth below and are continuing to grow faster than anything I have ever seen. The spears are quite thin, no where near the required 'pencil thick' for harvest I should see in the coming years. I have read differing opinions on what determines spear thickness; some sources say age, others relate it to depth of planting (the deeper the crowns the thicker the spear), and yet others also mention plant spacing as a factor. I am going to go with a combination of three since they all seem to have some merit. On a side note one crown disappeared it's first night in the garden, still wondering what critter ran off with my spidery asparagus crown leaving me a lonely mound in it's place.

I am still waiting for my Jersey Giant crowns to emerge. They had been buried under heavy rain prior to being shipped and were somewhat withered upon arrival. Hoping they will recover nicely and be late bloomers, not a dead mass of roots. It will be interesting to see the comparison in spear size if they do survive, to see if root length has any bearing on production and spear size.

The Great Tomato Experiment

After feeling inspired by the Bob Thomson Victory Garden methods I decided to give starting my tomatoes in winter a try this year, what did I have to lose? I did a sowing on Feb. 13th followed by 3 transplants over the months. With each move the plants were buried as deep as possible to encourage root growth and they received a fish emulsion soak every two weeks. Come April these babies were HUGE and flowering. I pinched the flowers not knowing what else to do, but more would come. In desperation I set out three of the plants (one each of Juliet, Sungold, & Big Beef) into the cold, very wet ground on April 21st. They were set up with a wall-o-water and a floating row cover for protection against the cold, wind, and rain.

While doing a garden walk through on May 5th I was elated to find some tomatoes growing on all of the plants when I peeked into the wall-o-waters. The plants that remained indoors were not fruiting but were continuing to set flowers. Above is a photo of the Big Beef taken today. I am hoping the gamble will be paying off come June with some fresh garden tomatoes.

First Spring Peas

I have sown three varieties of peas so far this year: Sugar Snap, Sugar Ann and Green Arrow. The Sugar Ann were started indoors back in March. Following germination (almost 100%) they went off to the cold frame for a week of hardening off before being put in the ground on April 5th. Both Sugar Ann and Sugar Snap were direct sown starting the 4th week of March and every week or two since then.

I was able to harvest a few peas from the S.A. plants that were started indoors this week, YUM! This variety is dwarf growing only 24" tall so does not require staking. It will be interesting to compare the yields to the full size vines.

I have already ordered a second round of sugar snap peas seeds since I will use my cuurent supply up before the fall planting begins. I am trying to squeeze in some of the dwarf variety anywhere I can realizing how quickly they will disappear off the vine and into my mouth.