Friday, March 30, 2012

some progress

i've started!! and i am so excited.

my plans have changed a bit and i now have a clear vision of how i want things to look.

there will now be a small rock wall at the top of the hill and an evergreen hedge at the bottom with perennials, ground covers, and herbs in between.
on the top flat part of the hill will be vegetables, soft fruit and more herbs.

this week i started by digging up a few plants and transplanting them elsewhere. but before long my plans changed and i began to dig up everything. i am starting completely over. a clean slate.

we started to break up a concrete walkway where a small flagstone path will go with herbs in between.

my neighbors keep walking by and asking what i am up to now.
i told them to get used to seeing me up front.

the job is a bit messy right now and planting will have to wait a few weeks.
but as much as i like to plant, i love to create spaces.
stay tuned.....

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This year's sugar snap trellis

Last year we used the dried okra stalks left in the ground as a natural trellis for the new sugar snaps. That method worked up to a point but then the sugar snaps grew too large for the okra stalks to support them. So this year we are trying something else. With some leftover wire fencing and wooden stakes we built a trellis that looks like my drawing (below). To do this, drive the wooden stakes into the ground and then secure the fencing to the stakes either by wrapping the edge of the fence around the end posts or staple or tie it to the stakes.

Most of the stakes we used are T shaped because we then drape a netting over the entire bed to keep out the birds. The house sparrows around here really like to eat the tender leaves.
There's lots of ways to make a trellis. Do you grow sugar snaps? What trellis method do you like?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

morning routine + a tip for small space gardeners

hello! good morning! don't you just love mornings in the garden? i have a little routine around here of eating my morning breakfast (mostly just a bowl of yogurt- waffles are saved for saturdays) with taproot close by & then heading out to the garden.

i always remember my garden boots & jar of scratch for the girls.

the greeting of spring flowers right beside the door lifts my spirits.

i often peek at the radishes, so excited for that one that is just right.

sometimes i harvest greens for our evening meal. arugula is my favorite right now.

& dream of bounties, harvests, hard work & meals to come.
the perfect way to start my day.


before i go, i want to leave you with a tip. this year, luke & i are planting speckled green lettuce within our broccoli bed. once the lettuce is mature, it will provide a lush mulch underneath the broccoli. lettuce doesn't mind shade, which makes these two great companions. try it out in your small space to grow a little more greens & prevent weeds.

Monday, March 26, 2012

seed starting and spring planting

the seed inventory

so, i went ahead and did some early planting (thanks for the encouragement last week!). this weekend was beautiful so i finally sat down and took some inventory of my seed collection, i have a lot! i made a list of everything that i had, and i was only missing a few things that i wanted to plant.

seed starting

i need (and want!) to do a better job of seed saving this year. it would be great to never have to buy seeds again, wouldn't it? another great way of avoiding seed buying is to swap and share seeds with fellow gardeners. these calendula seeds in my hands were sent to me for my birthday this past year by a dear friend who lives in oakland. it's so fascinating how different they look from the calendula seeds i saved from my own garden last summer (i sent her some of those in return). she didn't tell me the variety, so we'll have to wait and see what they turn out to be. i love that a piece of her will be in my garden this year.

calendula varieties

as for what i planted? i can say for sure that it's way too much! but that's okay. last year i was happy to share some of my surplus seedlings and i know i'll be doing the same in a month or so. these seedlings are now taking up three trays under fluorescent lights in my basement. two trays are on heating pads and one (the chard and kale) is not. the lights are timed to stay on for sixteen hours a day. currently, i have plastic covering all of the trays to create a greenhouse effect, but as soon as they start sprouting (which some already are, after only two days!), i'll remove the plastic and bring the lights up a little further (they are suspended on chains from the ceiling so i can adjust the height as the seedlings grow).

basement seed setup

i planted:
-silverbeet chard
-kale (dwarf blue curled scotch, lacinato, red russian)
-basil variety
-zinnias (red scarlet, cut and come again)
-tomatoes (cherokee purple, ace bush, yellow pear, sungold, matt's wild cherry)
-peppers (early jalapeno, bull nose bell)
-calendula ("leah's oakland", zeolights)

i also began my outdoor planting of early spring plants, arugula and radishes, but didn't get very far before the weekend was suddenly over (and i was down for the count with a bad cold). i'm hoping to plant some carrots, spinach, and snap peas over the next week.
shari posted some good seed starting links a couple of weeks ago here, here are a couple of my favorites: my post last year detailing my setup, you grow girl's instructions for setting up a diy lighting system, more instructions from you grow girl, another you grow girl list of handy links. i also referenced a few books i have: backyard homestead, and rodale's illustrated encyclopedia of organic gardening.

what are you all starting to plant so far this season?

Friday, March 23, 2012

a work in progress

i am a bit shy to share this post mainly because there is nothing very pretty to show. but i am excited to share with you where i will be spending a lot of my time this season.

when we first bought our home we had big plans to reconfigure the front of our house.
we live in a twin on the corner and have always dreamed of changing the entrance from the front of the house over to the side and converting the front porch into a larger living room. but with all that comes along with a "fixer upper" of a home this large project would have to wait.

with that in mind we found ourselves working from the back of the house first (putting on a back porch, building a patio, creating garden spaces, building rock walls, etc).
we now use the back door as our main entrance and the back of our home has essentially become the front and unfortunately the front has been a bit neglected and forgotten. i found myself not wanting to put too much energy into it since i knew we had big plans that would involve major construction and demolition.

but here we are 13 years later and that has not happened yet. i know one day it will but for now i have decided to give my front a little tlc and have claimed this year to be the year of the front garden!
there is no reason why i cannot be working on part of the garden space. and the beauty of the front of our home is that it is where we get the most sun.

i started this week by transplanting some currants, gooseberry and blueberries from the side where they just weren't producing much at all to the front where i think they will be much happier.

i plan to begin another rock wall in the front to help retain the large slope. i envision the hillside with culinary and medicinal herbs, strawberries, annual vegetables,and succulents.

it's kind of exciting to have a brand new space to fill with plants. even though it will take a bit of time before i truly love how the front looks i know that we need to start somewhere.
i confess that i planned this post mainly to help me to focus on an eyesore of a space that i have been ignoring. i look forward to sharing with you my progress.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We are thrilled to welcome Abby Meadow as a guest this week at Tend.
. . . . . . . .

While tending plants has always been an enjoyable part of Abby's life, it wasn't until she and her partner settled into a home of their own that she fully delved into the world of growing food. On the temperate Oregon Coast, Abby enjoys organic gardening throughout the year, in the small garden plot that she and her partner created from a patch of weedy grass. A lot of other patches of grass have also been transformed, as the pair works to make their property a place full of edibles, medicinals and native plants; and a safe and healthy home to the many bees, birds and deer that share their space.

Just a little over a week ago, I was giddy with the energy that comes with those first soft, warm, spring-like days. I started cleaning up the garden and planting seeds, and was feeling so excited. It was so warm that I was even wearing shorts while doing so! I was sure it was time! And then... the impossible happened. The central coast of Oregon had a freak snow storm! We almost never have snow here, this close to sea level. Our garden, and every other green thing was flattened with a very wet and very heavy blanket of white.

Everything has bounced back pretty well, with just a few breakages, but it is quite cold out still. So, this past week I have had some time to *think* about gardening, in lieu of actually *doing* any real gardening. Our garden is 2 years old this year. It has come a long way from the grass patch it once was. In these last couple years we have learned a lot about growing food in our climate. I thought I would share a few of the things I have learned in the past couple years here.

- Always plant extra starts, and keep some aside, even after transplanting as much as you want in the garden. Spring can be fickle and slugs and bugs are hungry! You can always give away the extras. We lost whole plantings to slugs and root maggots last year.
- Consider the winter months when planting. We live in zone 8b and can grow certain things year round, but we have done best to have those plants already well established by August.
- Compost, compost, compost. Our soil is benefiting hugely from every bit of organic matter that we add.
- Create micro-climates! We have a lot of wind in the summer. Creating a wind block and/or placing a stone on the north side of a plant, can make all the difference in generating the extra warmth a young plant needs to get a strong start. Growing taller plants on the south side of those that appreciate some afternoon shade is another example.
- When planting perennials, don't forget about crop rotation of the annuals they might share space with.
- In a small space, grow up! There are so many plants that can be trellised up instead of left to sprawl. This year we will grow a lot more cucumbers and squash with this simple idea in mind.
- Tomato plants are heavy and they get big fast. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I didn't stake soon enough or strong enough last year and struggled with it all summer as a result.
- Interplant. Some plants are more susceptible to disease and pests, and as we know, other plants can help repel some of these offenders. But in addition to this, if you have a loss of a certain plant (for example, our crazy root maggot problem last year, that seemed to only affect radishes and broccoli), you will not be left with an empty bed.

Are there certain lessons you have learned, that stand out in your own gardening experience? I'd love to hear some! What might seem like the simplest thing to one, can be overlooked by another.

Monday, March 19, 2012

early planting?


bees awakening

garlic chives


st. john's wort

welcome to the earliest minnesota spring on record! i'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it's only mid-march and yet it's been hitting almost eighty degrees and sunny for over a week now. apparently my garden is also confused. the bees are out and buzzing, and many things are blooming and sprouting already...lilac, st. john's wort, yarrow, lavender, borage, chives, oregano, rhubarb...

i'm trying to figure out if i should go ahead and start planting some early crops like peas and greens. normally a freak warm day or two in march would definitely get me excited but i know it's still way too early to plant. but this year is different. they're not predicting any more snow or really cold temps. it will probably get down to the thirties again, but maybe not even a frost. there's some chatter on my local community gardening list-serv about whether it's too early to plant this year, most folks are suggesting to go ahead and try it (why not?!). what i'm really wondering about is whether or not i should be starting my seeds indoors now, i had planned to wait another three weeks or so (planting around april 8 or so, which is about what i did last year), but now i'm all freaked out that i'll be way behind if i wait that long!

either way, it's pretty exciting to see all the sprouting and blooming!

how are you dealing with your early spring (if you're having one)? are you planting already, or holding off?

Friday, March 16, 2012

peas please

this week i salvaged from the farm a few flats of both shelling and sugar snap pea sprouts that were headed to the compost pile.
even though i don't have enough room for all of them, i knew i could find a few places for them to set their roots.

we planted quite a few of the shelling peas at the school garden just a block away from my house.
and as friends come and visit i send them each home with a bag of peas to plant in their own garden.
we have plans to plant a bunch in our community garden plot as soon as it gets tilled.

yesterday i planted a row along the front of the chicken run where their little tendrils can grasp on and climb up the wire.
the hens are pretty curious about the peas and have even been trying to nibble a bit.

my mouth is watering as i type this.
i have actually been buying sugar snaps at the market the last few weeks.
norah loves peas as a snack raw or simply steamed with a little sea salt.
she can't wait to run out back and hand pick her very own peas.
that is if the hens don't beat her to it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spinach Salad and Spinach Recipes

Spinach. I really do love spinach. And I'm not sure why exactly because on it's own it doesn't carry a lot of noticeable flavor. But it makes me feel good. Lately I've been craving greens and thankfully some of our razzle dazzle and curly spinach wintered over. In the photo you can see some small new spinach starts planted between the grown spinach.

We like to make big spinach salads and top with whatever veggies, seeds, and fresh or dried fruit we have. Tonight I'm sauteing cubes of tofu in soy sauce until brown, to add protein. So tonight's salad will have spinach, diced carrot and celery, sunflower seeds, raisins, homegrown sprouts and tofu, all piled up pillowy and tall, drizzled with Newman's lite honey mustard dressing. Homemade bread on the side. Yum.

Here's a few other spinach recipes I'd like to try:
Garlicky greens (can use spinach or kale)
Indian-Spiced Lentils with Spinach (also uses another springtime favorite, rhubarb)
Spinach with Shiitake Mushrooms (I would probably substitute some of our dried hot peppers for the piment d'espelette, and use a mixture of butter and olive oil to sauté the shallots and mushrooms.)

Happy Spinach!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

spring to do list (is it really that time yet?!)







lots of goodness in the garden this week & still so much to do

+ once the ground dries out (we might be waitin' awhile), we plan to till up a large space & plant tomatoes. our starts are showing their first true leaves. ripe tomatoes are just around the corner, friends!

+ harvested the last of our winter spinach & carrots. thankful for the crunch in march.

+ the girls have started laying! over a dozen eggs this week! thankful for their work.

+ planted some beautiful cosmic purple carrots in the garden yesterday evening. along with a row of beets & black simpson summer head lettuce in between each row.

+ weeded a few beds along with our perennial flower garden. the hens love that extra green goodness in their run.

+ enjoying the work outside with my hands. relaxed after a long day with a good book & a homemade chai latte. perfect.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

while we wait

Even though it feels much like spring out there these days, my garden is still icy. No planting for me yet. Inside, though, our leeks are ready to be thinned. We'll plant more vegetables from seed soon.

It's been an odd winter, and I'm ready to work in my garden. Waiting for the soil to dry out is never fun. I feel better after I visit the farm where spinach, mache, and peas are already making good progress in the high tunnel. C. gives me a bag of mixed greens and some lovely overwintered parsnips that I think I'll use to make macaroons!

A few good links for you today:

14 tips for starting your own seeds (Organic Gardening Magazine)

Has your hardiness zone changed? Take a peek at the 2012 updated map. My zone has shifted slightly.

Home Ground: Sanctuary In the City-Dan Pearson (I got a chance to flip through this gorgeous book last weekend. Love the photos by Howard Sooley.)

How to tell if the soil is ready for spring planting? (Organic Gardening Magazine)

Friday, March 9, 2012

bees and seeds

phew the week flew by!
but what a beautiful week it was.
thursday was almost 70 degrees.
we did manage to plant sugar snap peas, sweet peas, spinach and swiss chard.
i also bought some seeds including some dried beans and a mexican sour gherkin that resembles a watermelon!

i am attending a beekeeping workshop tomorrow.
we have such limited space that our only option is a rooftop hive.
chris has a bit of experience with beekeeping but i would like to learn more.
this year i would like to accumulate knowledge and supplies and pick a site.
in the mean time this is beautiful and inspiring.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Getting started

seed starts, week one
Two weeks ago today I had a couple wisdom teeth pulled and while I lay dozing with a gauze filled mouth, my husband sat beside the bed with seed trays and planted the first seed starts for our garden. He's been so eager to get our garden going this year; he began buying seeds back in December. Since then we have amassed quite a collection of vegetable and flower seeds.
seed starts, week two
Currently he has started seeds for everything from kohlrabi to strawberries to snapdragons and cockscomb. The trays are on a wire rack in a south facing window waiting for their turn outside.
kale, cilantro, and onions in the background
Without a proper winter I am baffled that it's really time for spring. But the robins are busy, our fruit trees are showing tiny green and pink tips, the yellow petals are slowly unfolding on the forsythia, the daffodils are blooming, and even a few dandelions have been spotted. Our kale, spinach, cilantro, and collards wintered over. And now I am about to gather a handful of kale and collards to make for soup tonight. This recipe by Amy Chaplin for creamy cauliflower soup with greens is very good. I made it once in January, except without the dill.

But before I go, one goal I want to consider over the growing season is this: I want to be more observant. While I have always been an observer, sometimes in my daily life I get busy in the doing and by the end of the day I'm like, uh, what happened? So I would like to take notice of what is growing in the garden, be a little more aware of the changes and growth, and in turn hopefully be more appreciative.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

new beginnings





on tuesday, i spent most of my afternoon outside in the garden. pulling up weeds, sinking my hands into the cool soil, looking up at cheerful birds greeting me in the trees, & staring in amazement at the tiny seedlings popping up in our raised beds. our little plot of land is waking up from it's winter slumber as am i. i treasure the beginning of the gardening season.

this year's garden will be our first to tend for an entire year. we have always moved from one home to another throughout the summer months, carrying our many container plants with us. this year is very different- it is a beginning! i want to share some of our goals for this year's garden.

:: expand our garden by adding a field garden! we hope to till up most of our backyard (except for the plot where our chicken tractor moves) & amend the soil with local compost. we will grow tomatoes, zucchini, corn, cucumber & squash in that space.

:: sell starts! the local health foods market where i work is encouraging me to sell my garden starts this spring. i plan to sell two varieties of basil, chamomile, thyme, oregano, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers & more. they are already so healthy & will be ready in about a month.

:: save more! i hope to preserve even more from our garden this year. less jam, more vegetables. those frozen bell peppers came in such handy this year so we plan to add a deep freezer to our garage for more space.

:: educate! we hope to have garden parties & hands-on lessons at our home this year. i am also teaching a series on green living at the university & some canning classes at local churches. today, i have an appointment for gardening consultation & plan to add many more to our schedule. luke & i are excited to serve our community as others begin their gardens & thankful for the extra income from sharing our skill.


& so it begins.