Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Garden Notes

  • Potatoes are beginning to flower.
  • Tomatoes blossoms were sprayed.
  • Peas are growing on the vines (I always forget they ripen from the bottom up, so remembering to peak down in the garden greenery turned up actually pea pods, yipee!).
  • Fish feed done; asparagus fertilized; mulch pulled from garlic bed.
  • Beans are coming up.
  • Thai Basil = dead (just like the lemon, what gives?).
  • All cool weather greens have bolted.
  • Melon seedlings doing poorly, possibly due to damping off.
  • Summer & Winter Squash direct sown at beginning of week.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What is this?

I have had some greenery growing in the coldframe all season.  At first I thought it may have been a flower  coming up from a missed tuber or bulb.  But nope, it is either Leek or Elephant Garlic.  Both were planted in the vicinity last year, and both crops failed (or so I thought).  Pretty sure I dug up the rotting elephant garlic so logic would suggest these are leeks right?

(They are the thicker stalks right along the edge of the coldframe, surrounded by onions and weeds.)

Here is the flower I tastes scallion-y:

So what could it be?  If it is in fact leek than it needs to come out before becoming inedible, but if it is elephant garlic than it needs more time to develop bulbs.  HELP!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Berry Patch, Future Meadow, and Mr. Sun

Thomas posed a good question this morning, which was have we been cutting down any more trees to let in the sun.  And the answer is no.  But we really should.  I went out to take some front yard photos just now, and as you will see things are quite shady.  (I also decided to take some from the road's viewpoint for a change, since I always take garden pictures looking out from the house.)

Yup, lots of shade.  More shade with every passing year as the trees continue to grow and block the rising sun.  I really hate to take down any more trees though.... they block out the road noise quite a bit and we have already lost quite a few of them this year in order to build the shed.  In this photo starting from the right is the blackberry bed & trellis, then the grape trellis, then the fenced in garden.

The area just in front of the house is sunny now, but it will soon be shaded by the house and will remain so for most of the day.  Can't come much closer than I am with the garden and maintain full sun.


Here is what the front yard looked like a few years ago, quite a difference!  (Again, my apologies for the hard to see pictures- it's all that darn shade!  This was pre-construction for an addition.  We had started taking down trees in preperation.  The area to the right in the first and second photos show where my bedroom and berry patch is now.  And look - that is all grass in the front, no garden yet! Go ahead and scroll back up to the first picture- pretty cool to see all that 'garden stuff' there now isn't it?)

We are still trying to piece the yard back together from all the 'construction destruction'.  We have decided to make the side yard into a mini-meadow of sorts with wildflowers is currently one big mess:

Two and a quarter pounds of annual & perrenial grasses, flowers, and more flowers, (and 2 more apple trees arriving in the Fall) to fill that space.  It will be nice if we can get the seeds to flourish instead of weeds.  That is the challenge with planting a wildflower "meadow".  We may have missed our window for sowing this year which really stinks.  We have just been so busy.  No time to bring in loam, and equipment to grade it.  Now is the perfect time....but it won't be happening.  &*$@

Here is the newly fenced in berry patch, I am VERY excited that this project is finally completed.  Well, almost.  I still need to tidy things up, add more stepping stones, and mulch it all in.

The dogs were trampling the strawberries.  Not sure how I am going to net the blueberries this year, but I still have some time.  (There are lots of strawberries, 7 blueberry bushes, a few raspberry & blackberry canes, and one apple tree enclosed.)  Speaking of netting, the larger of the two currants was being ravaged so we threw together a tee-pee and some netting....

Not pretty to look at, but it works.  Hope I didn't bore everyone to death with my yard and garden tour.  It is nice to see the progress we have made with it all over the years, makes all the time and money spent seem worthwhile.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The May Garden

The garden has officially overtaken our front yard.  This is not a bad thing, just that we are currently coming to grips with this as the mowing and weed whacking chores are done.  Less mowing, more whacking.

Husband is now insisting we buy a "real weed-whacker" since the job has taken on a life of it's own.  I agree, we need to kick it up a notch.  The stakes went into tomato alley this week, just in time too (well, really quite a bit too late since I was chopping roots to get them in)- many of the varieties are flowering.  Sungold, Polbig, Juliet, and Cherokee Chocolate were the first to flower.   All but a remaining few have joined in.

The peas are also finally profusely blooming, though we were eating peas by this time last year.  Then again, I also had tomatoes fruiting so things are just behind in general comparatively speaking.  The two pea varieties are very different colored greens.  I don't know if it is a variety trait or a difference in soil make-up between the two beds.  Hmm,

The spinach has bolted, so half of it has been removed, and Diva cuke seedlings put in it's place.  I got creative for the cucumber trellis, some wire trellises from last year with bamboo and a stick laid across should make a sturdy structure for the vines to climb.  Shade cloth went over the remaining greens in the bed.

We let some of the Painted Lady butterflies we have been raising go today, here is one showing my little boy how a butterfly uses it's probiscus to harvest nectar.....

Time to get back to work, we are fencing and bird-netting, and trellising today.  Happy Gardening!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Green Garlic

Isn't it funny how things sometimes happen?  I had never really been aware of "green garlic" until I was giving a tour of my garden last week and a friend said 'green garlic' when pointing at my greenery.  I hadn't heard of all it's culinary uses- what a shame!  And now it seems that I have been seeing those words everywhere in my small blogging circle.  Ribbit over at The Corner Yard just did a post on her freshly pulled garlic for her friend needed a clove, megan/mason from On a Little Land mentioned it as a must have for her Top 5 (see previous post).  Many farmers thin the garlic in Spring and sell it at markets or to chefs.   Maybe some of you have even seen it in your CSA box.   I pulled a handful of my smallest stalks in effort to thin as I harvested, and this is what came up:

Interesting how the different varieties are colored, lots of 'reds' in there!  After a little trimming of the roots, and peeling of the outer skin, this is what one is left with for cooking:

Still undecided as to how to use this new garden treat I decided to thinly slice it and go from there.....

After doing some sampling I decided the leafy green tops were my favorite, so I added the remaining trimmings that were set aside into the bowl as well (seen below before being added in).

Searching for recipes turned up the usual suspects: pesto and pasta.  Before picking the stuff I had intended on making a pesto of sorts, but then I read how cooking the green garlic down in butter gave it a leek-like quality.  I was sold, so into the pan it went with a chunk of butter.

The end result:

The flavor did mellow, but I actually prefered it in it's raw state.  I tossed some of this garlic into our pasta for dinner (a Red Pepper- Arugula sauce), and the rest sits in the fridge awaiting it's destiny.  (I am thinking a pizza or a tart.  It is what I always go back to really.)

Red Pepper- Arugula Sauce:

1 block softened cream cheese
1 12 oz jar Roasted Red Peppers- drained, rinsed and seeded (or 4-5 peppers, freshly roasted)
1 clove od garlic, minced (or sub green garlic as I did)
water or milk to thin to taste.

Put all dry ingredients into food processor and mix.  Add liquid to thin to desired consistency.  (This recipe can be doubled for a pound of pasta if you like lots of sauce.  It makes enough to coat a box of Barilla Plus pasta nicely, which is short of a full pound.)

Wilt fresh arugula in a pat of butter or splash of olive oil for a few minutes on stove top, then stir into sauce, keeping in mind the greens shrink down quite a bit- I never seem to pick enough.  Top cooked pasta with grated Parmesan and ground pepper, and serve!

(Here is picture of out leftovers in the fridge, I forgot to take a picture of it last night- oopsy!  And see, I could have used some more arugula in there.)

Don't you just love 'garden fresh'??

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Garden Planning, and Your Top 5

I have been doing a lot of garden pondering lately.  I am still in that 'I want to try everything' phase, but for the first time since starting this garden journey I also feel some clarity.  This clarity is coming from the knowledge that I will never have enough room; and that greens,  herbs, and perennial producers  should be my main focus for most of the year.  If I could just get 3 months ahead, and stay 3 months ahead of myself in the world of planning, rotation, pruning, and sowing schedules it would grand!  Life would be easier, right?

But back to the greens and herbs for a moment,  these are the items I crave the most.  Sure I can get them anywhere, but fresh herbs and salad ingredients are what I would use everyday if given the opportunity- so why not give myself that opportunity!  The other cool bit is that I have come to enjoy the many flavors and textures that having a variety have greens can offer.  Mustards, Asian Greens, Chard, Kale and other oddities like Claytonia make a delicious plate of colors, flavors, and textures.  (I went so far as to make up my own lettuce mix this week, its getting crazy over here, lol!)   And what is up with  half of my beds being filled with onions, garlic, and shallots?  I mean really- what was I thinking?  Now I have room for little else, like all those greens I have decided I need in my life.  Sheesh.

I need to learn to rely on the farmer's markets for trying out a new pepper or tomato variety, not my garden.  This is of course limiting, but in reality how many different peppers and tomatoes do I really need in my life?  A little of this and a little of that can be picked up anywhere, but the heart of my food - the potatoes, peas, lettuce, favorite tomato varieties, and things that can be stored and preserved for nourishment should take center stage.  It may not be glamorous, but I think it would make good use of space and money to concentrate on these few things, and do them really, really well.  It all goes back to the KISS:  Keep It Simple Stupid. It is in the KISS spirit that I must document my intentions for next Spring:  I will concentrate on getting my "KISS List"- herbs, peas, chard, spinach, kale, and lettuce sown asap- and in copious quantities!  (Everything else will have to show it's merit this gardening season in order to make the final cut for 2011.)  So, if YOU were stranded on a gardening island and could only order 5 seed packets, what would they be?  (And yes you are alone, and no, there are no other gardens to go foraging for seed in.  ☺)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Harvest Monday: Kale for the Freezer

Last year I discovered "Kale Pizza"- and boy do I love it!!  I have posted about it once or twice in the past, but basically I saute up some chopped kale with homemade onion preserves (click for a recipe link in older post), toss it on a thin oiled pizza crust, generously top it with crumbled feta and grill.  Scrumptious!  My favorite way to do kale by far -  though in my opinion it is the jam that makes the whole thing come together.

The problem is it has been a seasonal recipe for me so far, I just never was into buying kale at the grocer's.  So today I did a decent sized harvest to freeze for Winter.  Cool right?  Why didn't I do this last year???  It started with over a pound and a half of Red Russian Kale and a handful of Hon Tsai Tai leaves thrown (cause they were there).

The greens were rinsed, partially stemmed (I actually prefer to leave most of them intact, we like the crunch they provide), chopped, and blanched for 2 minutes before being plunged in an ice bath and spun dry.  Then I laid out the kale on a piece of parchment paper and blotted them with paper towels to get as much moisture off as I could.

Next I rolled up, and cut the paper in half before laying it in a freezer bag......

And there you have it, Harvest Monday (done on Sunday), to be enjoyed when fresh greens will be hard to come by in the home garden.  I ended with 6 sections of parchment which will make either 6 individual, or 3 large pizzas if I am figuring it correctly.  Now I better go check my onion preserves stash, I think it may be time for a new batch!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The beans are soaking, a bamboo tee-pee has been erected, and I need to dig the inoculant out of the shed before I forget and sow without it.  It really has been a beautiful day to work out in the garden.  Other chores included 'hilling' the potato bags with compost and straw layers, a little weeding, some potting up, and some feeding were checked off the list today.

Many of the potatoe plants have put on quite a bit of growth this past week despite the cold evening temperatures.  Even the tomatoes appear to be happy being out in the garden in below average May temperatures.  Most plants are starting to flower out and a few varieties are noticeably bigger than the rest, mainly the Polbig, Juliet, and Sungold.  Lettuce seedlings are growing in nicely between the plants.  It is almost time to do another succession sowing for the greens.  I have some Claytonia and a Spicy Mesclun Mix to add to the next round.

(I put 4 plants under black mulch and they are in fact larger, though they are also early varieties so not sure which is the contributing factor- maybe both.)

The currants are really coming along, my mouth waters just looking at them!

Here are my apple babies (just a solitary fruit one the first tree, still a group remaining on the second):

And some great news:  my rhubarb has come to life- WOO-HOO!!!!!!!!

I am finding the obvious coloration differences in the mint I recently planted runners of interesting, the ginger mint is quite gold, the chocolate mint has dark colored veining and edging (which for some reason is not very visible in the photo below unless you really compare it to the traditional mint), and then there is the plain 'ol mint- just green!

I am growing quite impatient for all those peas to start producing.  I spied a few flowers out there today- FINALLY!  I was able to harvest a large amount of greens today, enough to get us through most of the week I think.......well, that about covers what is going on out in my little kitchen garden, what is coming to life in yours?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Garlic Chive Pesto

This my friends, is my new favorite thing to eat:  Garlic Chive Pesto.  Now there are two kinds of "garlic chives" out there.  I have been growing the traditional hollow chive that has a garlic flavor to it; there is also the 'Chinese Leek' variation of garlic chives which is the one I am currently having a culinary love affair with (which is said to be sold as "Gow Choy" in Chinese Grocers).  I have seeds on order, but the bad news is that I won't have some serious G.C. square footage going until next year.  How sad for me.

In my haste I never took a picture of the clump of G.C. chives my thoughtful friend Naomi brought to me yesterday.  Here is what was left over in the may be hard to tell from the photograph, but the leaves of this variety are actually flat like a blade of grass.  Flat and yummy.  Mmmm.......

So there you have it, a bowl of the green stuff- ready to be piled onto a cracker, chip, chicken, pasta,  some string cheese, or a plain old spoon.  ♡  I added olive oil, a grind or two of sea salt, a handful of raw cashews, and a good amount of lemon juice to make this pesto.  Oh, and a pinch of suger to compliment the lemon juice.  I am in heaven.  Seriously, I find this stuff that good!

(Thank-you Naomi!!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Harvest Monday

Here is my contribution for Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions - a salad of mixed greens and baby spinach with dinner; some kale, chard, spinach, chives, and sage to go in a garden quiche for another day.

We are in the midst of a cold snap here in Massachusetts, things were growing well while the warm weather blessed us recently.  The potatoes are high, the various fruit trees and bushes are transitioning from flower to fruit, and the greens began to bolt.  Hope you all are having a wonderful week, Happy Gardening!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Garden Tour

My camera bit the dust on our last homeschool field trip to see the Herring Run over at the Cape Cod Canal, so I had to go out and replace it (which I was not happy about), and I missed out on taking so many cool pictures.  Grr.  It is stuff like this that consistently keeps me over-budget.  Anyway, this time I went for one of those 'tough' cameras that is water and impact resistant.  I figure with all the traveling my little point and shoot does this should help add some years to it's life expectancy.  The bad news is I don't like the camera.  It is very different than what I am used to and I can't seem to photograph how I want to in macro mode, which is what I love when out in the garden.  I think the long term solution is to eventually cave and buy a digital SLR for my fun photog needs, and keep this functional clunker for the trips to the beach, hikes, and general travels with the kids.  Sigh, now that I got that all out lets move on to the actual garden tour.  I have a few more May flowers to throw in from yesterday's post, the first of which are some Lilly of the Valley which perfumed my sleep last night from my nightstand.  I never take advantage of their gorgeous scent as I should, and there is just no excuse for it!

My husband (and the wedding party) wore these tucked in their tuxes at our wedding, the little white bells are so sweet and will forever remind me of that day.
Two of my rhubarb crowns and plopped in amongst this walkway planting, can you find them?

(Hint:  they are to either side of the orange tulips, one is under a cage.)

The other crowns I received from Johnny's look dead to me, and the roots are rotting underground.  Johnny's had advised me that they are fine, this is normal, that they will take a month or so to break dormancy.  I sure hope they are right cause it doesn't seem 'normal' to me!

Yesterday I took a huge leap of faith and planted the tomatoes out in tomato alley.  The soil was warm so I decided to go for they are all tucked in under row cover for added night protection:

There are some cocktail straws tucked in along the stems to hopefully keep the cutworms away, and a dusting of Fertrell Feed-N-Grow and Azomite went in beneath them.  I totally forgot the aspirin this year in my haste, stupid, stupid, stupid.   Maybe I will just crush some up and scatter the bits around the whole bed for good measure.  I don't know if it really does anything, but I read long ago about some grower putting an aspirin and a fish head in every tomato planting whole, and swearing by it.  I forgo the fish, but the aspirin is easy enough.  :)

Here we have peas (2 sections), and fingerling potatoes (under straw) in the tall bed.  In the background is the garlic bed, and a peak at the wildly growing asparagus bed to the left.  Further beyond that just outside the fence is the new blackberry patch, and beyond that (where the dirt piles and toys are if you squint and concentrate on seeing them) is the future home to the pounds of wildflower seed I have sitting in my family room.

The coldframe is probably just about ready to be moved, everything inside is coming along nicely:

I am not quite sure what happened to the second row of lettuce that I sowed, it is nice and thick in the front, but then just sort of peters out.  Did something eat it?  I don't think it washed away or I would have it growing elsewhere, correct?  Garden mysteries.  There are 2 rows of carrots and lots of weeds tucked in amongst the lettuce....oh, and a big old parsley plant from last year.  The other interesting part about these two rows of lettuce is they were sown on the same day, quite a difference in growth between the two varieties huh?

Below are the sweet potato slips.  It appears I have lost/am losing one or two, but the rest appear to be growing.  It is quite warm under that black mulch and row cover, sometimes I wonder if it could be too warm......

In this bed I have some transplanted spinach along with directly sown herbs, carrots, broccoli, and asian greens.  It is the future home to beans or cucurbits...or maybe both.

The bed just to the left in the above photo is my last empty space.  Crazy how fast the new square footage went this Spring, I still have onion and leeks sets to go in the ground as well- and I have no clue where they are going to fit!  Today I plan on transplanting out the remaining peppers inside 'walls o water' (I did 2 yesterday), and sowing my melon and cuke seeds indoors.  I need to hammer out a plan for these melons, cukes, squash, and beans that have yet to be is limited.  I think I am going to be planting the leeks and onions in between the peppers, it at least looks good on paper, and that was the plan I came up with this Winter so I should stick with it right??   (The only problem is the winter rye and pea shoots growing in that bed.  The bunnies have helped some with the peas, but the damn rye refuses to die!)

I threw together some new beds in front of the shed last week for the extra strawberries I had, and my new herbs.  (The strawberries were hung last year, but they didn't do that well so this year I moved them to my half whiskey barrels; the left-overs went in these beds.)

Between the 2 beds there are 3 varieties of mint, oregano, cilantro, pineapple sage, 2 varieties each of rosemary and lavender, garlic chives, and a few basil plants thrown in for good measure.  I finally have 'an herb garden' in addition to the plants tucked in around the kitchen garden.  This is very exciting stuff!  :)

OK, this post has gone on long enough, and my little boy just rode his bike for the first time without training wheels on without me there to witness it..... I am off to be his cheer-leader!