Thursday, May 16, 2013
after natalie's post yesterday i am once again in shock about the vast difference between the seasons down in arkansas and up here in minnesota! we are just barely scratching the surface of spring here. here's a bit of what's happening up here these days...
over the weekend, i finally cleared out all of last year's remains from my community garden plot. jared and i added some compost and turned the soil (well, he did that part...i've been banned from shoveling duty this year!) and i weeded the plots, dug up the ever expanding garlic chives that i plan to gift to friends and neighbors and transplant into my home gardens, and continued on my annual quest to corral the strawberries back into their designated areas.
back at home, i cleared off the leaf mulch from my perennial gardens and began planting some flowers. i didn't really get around to starting any flower seeds early this year (except for marigolds), so to satisfy my impatience and excitement over spring's belated arrival, i picked up some pansies, alyssum, and dusty miller (we love that name!) at my local garden store to pretty up the front of our house. we brought home another clematis to accompany the one we planted last year. my mother-in-law says they do best in pairs (or more) so we'll see how it turns out.
i also planted a few more pots of flowers with seeds that my friend mary sent me (zinnia and morning glory) and used the extra pansies, etc. to start planting my garage wall garden.
on the vegetable front...the kale starts that i was so generously gifted by a neighbor did not survive the neighborhood squirrels, so i'm starting over with direct seeding. in the next week or so i'll be planting seeds for cucumbers, summer and winter squash, chard, and dry beans. i'm also beginning to harden off my tomato seedlings that have been growing like mad in the basement.
even though it sounds like a lot (and is!) i am intentionally trying to simplify my garden this year. with the new addition to our family coming in early august, i know my time and energy (and physical ability to bend over, ha!) will be limited. but i just can't stop myself! so...get ready for loads of flowers and herbs in addition to the slightly limited veggies i'm planting...
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
i am always inspired by these tend ladies. their passion for gardening on small plots of land is contagious. in early spring, i found this old stump & planted mint inside amy style. every time i look at our little stump planter, i think of her. thank you, amy, for the wonderful idea!
late spring is here & we are beginning to prepare for the summer season. we are planting tomatoes & making trellises with twine & bamboo for cucumbers. we are planting zucchini & yellow squash, crossing our fingers aphids & squash bugs don't get to our plants first (we still haven't found an organic pest control solution... any ideas? they are fierce here!).
for now, we are patiently waiting for our carrots. only a few short weeks left until we can begin harvesting! it is definitely salad season here. we have never grown romaine lettuce before, but our heads are maturing nicely. we are filling up brown bags of lettuce for neighbors, family & dear friends. i sometimes fill up a mixing bowl of salad for lunch. it's so delicious this time of year.
i found that old red chair at a yard sale for a couple of dollars last weekend. the seat needed to be re-woven, but instead, i decided to make it into a fun planter.
we also added a new garden bed to the side of our house for mint. i am looking forward to mint tea & popsicles this summer.
it's a wonderful time of year for planting, harvesting, watching & enjoying the bright new greens of the season! happy gardening friends!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Like many other gardeners I know, I love kale. The last 2 years in a row, I've had a lot of trouble with what seemed to be root maggots, eating the roots and main stalks of my kale and broccoli to the point of their death. Kale is one of my favorite garden vegetables, so I haven't been able to give up on it, but it's been super frustrating.
Last spring, when I found maggot infestations in the roots of my first planting of cucumbers, I decided to investigate a little bit further (this would not be a typical plant for root maggots). I started to notice that where ever I found little white larvae, I would also find tiny white organisms with legs (millipede babies), and small millipedes (closer example here). Are there two problems, or are they all related? Still slightly unsure on this but I am thinking two.
|Millipedes feeding on a decaying artichoke flower. If you look closely you can see babies as well.|
|Lacinato kale, interplanted with arugula|
I tried to feel out the situation to see if a solution would come to me. I thought of all the usual things I knew of... insecticidal soap, neem oil, wood ash, coffee grounds... but none of them really felt quite right, and then coffee came to mind. Brewed coffee. The feeling was to brew some coffee and pour a bit at the base of each plant - enough to saturate the immediate root supply. I haven't heard of doing this, but it just had that feeling of effectiveness, you know? Do you ever try that? To just feel for a solution? Sometimes I have come up with amazing solutions this way. I don't know if this one will work, but I'll be watching closely.
Later, I looked online to see if I could find any literature on using coffee as a pesticide, and actually found a few mentions of using brewed coffee as a spray on plants to deter slugs. Apparently the caffeine is toxic to them. I have to say, it was satisfying to find some backing to my less than scientific vision.
|I used the grounds too.|
While life will surely go on if I lose all my kale, I like to try to tackle these challenges and not give up. I've become a more patient and more enduring person in my day to day life by sticking it out with these kinds of perplexing challenges in the garden.
Friday, May 10, 2013
as i was going through some old photos last week, i found the one above of our backyard when we first bought the house almost 15 years ago. as you can see i had a clean slate to work with-not one plant was to be found! there was just grass which over the years i have eliminated all of, except for one little strip along the sidewalk where we can get out in and out of the car (which soon will be flagstone:)
i thought it would be fun to show you the before and after.
this week we have been direct seeding several different vegetables including cukes and watermelon right on the front lawn. and i have been popping all sorts of beans in to little empty pockets here and there. bush beans don't take up too much room and can be tucked in between your perrenial flowers. there are many beautiful purple and yellow varieties which look lovely along a perennial border.
i also planted a few different types of pole beans to climb up the chicken run fence and some bamboo tepees. i am growing my friend tim's heirloom beans.
i also wanted to share with you a little series which i have fallen deep in love with. i have a little crush on gardener, alys fowler who's gardening style is very similar to mine. she lives in the city of birmingham, england and has a small backyard where she incorporates edibles in with her perennials and ornamentals. she has written several books, many of which i have on my wish list. and recently i stumbled upon a bbc series called the edible garden where alys focuses on living off her own home grown produce straight from her little city garden.
not only is her garden charming and her style whimsical but i could listen to her say compost and basil all day long in her beautiful english accent. and i love how she refers to zucchini as courgettes.
you can watch all six episodes of the edible garden here.
both of my daughters are also quite smitten with this delightful little show and want to try all of alys's recipes. i especially have been keeping my eye out for purple sprouting broccoli.
even though alys lives many miles away i feel as if her garden and mine are distant cousins.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
hello! i am here today to share with you my favorite strawberry jam recipe. this is by no means a recipe that is healthy, but my mom & i have made this strawberry jam since i was in high school so it holds dear memories for me. i also don't eat this jam everyday. i gift it to my family during the holidays (my aunt requests it!) & use it as a delicious topping on waffles during our special sunday brunches.
my mom came into town this past weekend & brought along a box of strawberries from my hometown! i've never had a better strawberry. they are truly melt-in-your-mouth amazing. so, with my mom in town & a box of strawberries, there was really not much else to do but can! that we did & i am happy to share with you our recipe. enjoy!
- canning jars with screw tops & new lids (i prefer smaller jars for jam)
- water bath canner or extra large pot with lid
- large pot
- clean towels
makes about eight 8-ounce jars
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- 8 cups whole strawberries, capped & crushed
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 package (1.75 oz) regular powdered fruit pectin
1. place clean mason jars without lids or screw tops in water bath canner. add cool water to canner until it reaches the rim of the jars. place canner on the stovetop & bring to a simmer. simmer until you are ready to use your jars.
2. place new lids (the flat part of the top) to a saucepan. add about an inch of water. place on stove top over low heat & allow the lids to heat until you are ready to use them.
3. measure exact amount of sugar into a large bowl & set aside.
4. measure exact amount of crushed strawberries & add to large pot. add lemon juice & mix. add pectin & mix until the pectin is dissolved.
5. bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that does not stop boiling when stirred) on high heat. all at once, add your measured sugar to the large pot. bring your strawberry mixture to a rolling boil once more, stirring constantly.
6. once your strawberry mixture is at a full rolling boil, boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
7. remove the pot from heat immediately. skim off foam.
8. remove your jars from the canner, making sure to dump the water back into the canner from the inside of the jar. place warm, empty jars on towel. remove lids from saucepan & place on the towel.
9. carefully fill one jar at a time using your funnel. make sure to fill jar leaving 1/4 in. headspace. wipe off the rim with a clean towel & screw on lid & top to fingertip-tight. place jar in canner & repeat.
10. once all of your jars are in the canner, fill the canner with water until the water is 1 in. above the tallest jar. cover canner & bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. process jars for 10 minutes.
11. once jars have been processed, wait five minutes. then, remove jars from canner & place on towel for 24 hours. after 24 hours, make sure your jars are sealed.
12. label jars & gift to family or friends! enjoy atop waffles or on a delicious pb&j!
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
My natural inclination is to work with bare hands in the garden, free of the encumbrance of gloves, but my hands can really take a beating. Soil can be drying and abrasive, leaving my skin feeling pretty parched.
This week I felt inspired to finally try making my own healing lotion with home grown herbs. It was a little bit experimental, and I didn't have any particular expectations, but in the end I am beyond happy with the outcome!
I chose fresh calendula, lavender we harvested and dried last summer and fresh elder flowers.
Calendula is supportive to the treatment of almost any kind of skin irritation. It can be used to disinfect and treat minor wounds, conjunctivitis, cuts, scrapes, chapped or chafed skin, bruises, burns, athlete’s foot, acne, yeast infections, bee stings, diaper rashes, and other minor irritations and infections of the skin.
Lavender has antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is both soothing and stimulating, and is a great tonic for all skin types.
Elderflower has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, and is also a soothing, supportive tonic for all skin types, particularly mature skin.
I combined the herbs and added organic olive oil to them. I slowly heated the herb and oil mixture over the course of a few hours, to infuse the oil with the healing properties of the herbs.
I then added a bit of beeswax, a calendula infusion, witch hazel and essential oil, and blended the ingredients together until I reached my desired consistency.
It was a rather long, yet very simple process, and in the end it felt a bit like magic. I have been rubbing this cream into my dry skin for the last few days and have been enjoying it so much. It feels like such a luxury! There is something especially satisfying knowing exactly where everything came from, and having harvested the herbs right from our gardens.
My excitement over this project prompted Steven to plant a huge row of calendula, echinacea and sage this weekend, and over dinner tonight we read up on medicinal herbs we would like to start adding to our landscape.
(For anyone interested, I have provided more detailed steps of my process on my blog.)
As you know, it is so rewarding to feed ourselves from our gardens. For me, to also heal and nurture the body in more deliberate, medicinal ways creates a satisfaction on an even deeper level.
Do you grow any herbs for specific, healing purposes? I'd love to know!
Monday, May 6, 2013
I hope you'll forgive me, but I just came home from Charleston and don't really have a post ready. Instead, I thought I'd share a few links that have been catching my eye lately.
Bee Week at Modern Farmer magazine
Influence by Danielle Charles
Warm Potato Salad with Spring Greens by Sarah at The Yellow House
Adding herbal color to the garden over at Organic Gardening
The Garden Conservancy's Open Days schedule (look for one near you!)
Saving the Season by Kevin West (eagerly awaiting this one)
Hope everyone has a great week.