Friday, May 31, 2013

front yard garden: year two


last summer, one of my big goals was to expand our front yard garden. (i wrote about our plans, with some before photos, here. and then a first look here.) specifically to dig up the grass on one side of the small hill in front of our house and plant a perennial herb and flower garden (the other side of the hill already had a garden planted when we moved in). and so, dig and plant we did last memorial day weekend. i thought i'd post a few photos of how the garden is doing in it's second year.


most of the perennials i planted last year came back this year, with the exception of anise hyssop, poppies, and lavender. i was a little bummed about those, but i've added a few more in their places so far this year, and i'll be filling in the rest of the empty spaces with annuals (i have a lot of marigolds!) and maybe some late season sale perennials. even though perennials can be expensive, i always buy them when they're smallest and just know that it'll take a few years for them to grow to a fuller size. they are so worth the investment!


this garden is definitely part shade (which is probably why those perennials didn't come back...they needed a sunnier spot?). it's right under a big tree but gets really nice morning light since we are right across the street from a park and there's nothing blocking the light coming from the east. here are some of the plants that are doing well there: borage, french sorrel, columbine, and chives and garlic chives. so far this year, i've added some tickseed and cushion spurge bonfire. i also planted some rogue strawberries that popped up in my backyard vegetable bed...we'll see how those guys do!

so how about you all? how are any new garden spaces that you planted last year doing? any plans for new gardens this year? we'd love to hear.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

deep greens

I hope you all had a great weekend, and if you are in the US, maybe you even enjoyed an extra long one. It's been a full week here, and then I just threw my back out (again!) so I'm a bit laid up. I didn't think I would make it here on Tend this week, but after dinner tonight I felt inspired to share my favorite way to eat kale (and my apologies ahead of time if I am starting to seem kale obsessed, haha).

I first learned about massaged greens from a friend of mine who is a caterer. I thought it sounded so fancy, and then smiled at how simple it was. I have been making my own massaged kale salads ever since, and love to sprinkle them with home made vinaigrette. It's my favorite way to enjoy kale, and I could eat it this way everyday, more than once a day.

If I'm including softer greens, like cilantro, I add them after massaging
 If you have never had massaged greens, it's a nice way to soften tougher and more bitter greens, and the leaves become infused with the flavors of the oil that you choose. I particularly love high quality olive oils, but sesame oil is a real treat as well. Simply chop your fresh greens into bite sized pieces, pour a drizzle or so of oil over them, and then basically squish firmly, or "massage" the oil into the greens with your hand. The greens will turn a very deep, vivid green color and will be soft and sort of wilty in appearance. You can then eat them as is, or add dressing or other toppings.

Garbanzo beans always make a delicious, protein rich salad topping
For my vinaigrette I just eyeball the liquids straight into the jar and mix to my taste. Everyone loves this dressing when they try it, and then are so impressed to learn it's home made. And then I can't help but feel like I cheated a little, since it's so very simple. My niece loves it so much, she recently asked for a big jar of it for her next birthday :) Sweet girl.

 Here is an attempt at rough measurements, which you will want to adjust to your taste. Makes about 2 cups of dressing:

2 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (start with the lesser and add to taste)
1/4 cup (or so) tamari 

I use a deep spoon to stir well and serve with.

Now serve yourself some deep greens and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

homemade comfrey salve

we had a very tragic incident with our chickens earlier this week. we woke up to four deaths and one injury the next morning. no clear signs of exactly what happened, but we are making sure to watch over our girls who are left with the utmost care, treating them to green scraps from the garden & egg shells for an extra boost. our one injured girl had a deep gash that we are treating with hydrogen peroxide and a homemade comfrey salve.

comfrey is a wonderful perennial herb that we use as a fertilizer and medicinal medicine. comfrey is a great topical medicinal herb that heals cuts and wounds quickly. mixed with a bit of olive oil and beeswax, this salve can be used for human and chicken friends alike. 

please do your research to correctly identify comfrey. it has large leaves & looks like the photo above. we have three plants of comfrey in our medicinal herb bed that are in their peak for harvesting. we harvested a basket of comfrey leaves the night before making the salve.

we chopped up the comfrey leaves and placed them in the dehydrator. above is what the comfrey should look like when it is completely dry. our comfrey took about 12 hours to completely dry.

using our fingers, we crushed the comfrey leaves into tiny pieces. we also used comfrey root, which we purchased from the health food store. you will need a total of 1 oz. of dried comfrey leaves/root to make your salve. 

after measuring the exact amount of dried herbs, we added the herbs to 1 cup of olive oil in a pot. we placed the lid on, turned the stove on low heat and allowed the olive oil to warm up slightly. once the olive oil was warm, we removed the lid and turned the temperature all the way down to the lowest setting. the temperature should be between 100 and 140 degrees F for 3 to 5 hours.

once you have allowed your salve to heat for 3 to 5 hours, place a coffee filter in a mesh strainer atop a cup. allow the mixture to strain until all of the liquid is separated from the dried bits of herbs. set aside the liquid.

measure 1 oz. of wax per 1 cup of oil. add beeswax and herbal oil infusion to your stainless steel pot and allow to heat until the beeswax is completely melted and fully mixed with your herbal oil infusion. remove the mixture from heat. pour the liquid salve into a glass jar. allow to cool and harden into a salve. add lid once salve is completely hardened.

store your comfrey salve in your apothecary cabinet for future uses! enjoy!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

may garden highlights

I've been enjoying seeing the garden updates here over the last week, so I thought I would share some of the highlights in our gardens right now.

 One of the most exciting new developments for us, is the addition of a blueberry patch. We purchased 5 bushes this week. They are 3 years old and are already full of quite a lot of green berries. It was tempting to bring home even more, but we held back in order to reserve space for some diversity in varieties. This particular variety is Bluecrop.

 The tomatoes have been planted. There are still quite a lot left over, so we're working on coming up with ways to fit them in, in other places. We could never have too many tomatoes!

Flowers are blooming everywhere, with colorful new faces each day it seems. A lot of herbs are starting to flower right now, which adds such a diversity of colorful texture.

 Tiny summer squashes are forming already! At least one variety that I chose this year is resistant to powdery mildew. I am hoping they fare better than past years.

 It's going to be time to have some artichokes any moment now. These particular plants are now about 3 years old, and are producing so well this year. 

We are planning to build cucumber trellises rather than let them sprawl as I usually do. They will be ready to start climbing soon.

There is so much growth happening right now. Looking back on some photos I took just a week ago, I am amazed at the changes and how quickly things are filling out. With June just a short ways off, the garden will really start to change and grow rapidly.

And just for fun, a photo of the native Rhododendron. I don't think I will ever get over my amazement of these impressively large, colorful blooms. The woods are lined with them right now. Such a beautiful contrast to the lush green of the forest in May.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Delights of Mid-May

 Apple blossoms promising a bumper crop this year. We're hoping to make apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and applesauce this year.

 Good old reliable garlic. 102 cloves planted this year plus a few extra in the front herb beds.

Nothing makes me happier than to see buds on our peonies, or

the neon pink tulips around our cherry tree.

 100 dandelion flowers were collected to make a festive spring drink.

 Dandelion lemon soda (Dandelion flowers, light brown sugar, water, lemon) in the works. Recipe from Backyard Medicine, a new favorite herbal.

The tomato seedlings are getting bigger and needed to be re-potted recently. This year we are growing Orange Banana, Mortgage Lifter, German Pink, Indian, Sungold, Amish Paste and Cosmonaut Volkov.

The view of our field garden from above. Look behind the pond on the right to spot it.

Other mid-May delights not photographed:

Eating asparagus, just picked, from our neighbor's garden
The promise of free raspberry bushes from a friend
The first morel spotted
Sweet Pea flowers emerging from the soil
Weekend lunches eaten outdoors
The backyard garden planted with red and golden beets, alpine strawberries, parsley, cress, lettuce
Making a summer salve
Rhubarb, lemon, vanilla handpies from A Year of Pies
Melissa Clark's roasted asparagus with rhubarb puree from Cook This Now

What are your favorite mid-May delights?

Friday, May 17, 2013

full swing in the garden

Untitled Although our house is under major construction right now and i may have to hop over a ladder or straddle a pile of lumber to weed and plant, it is not keeping me from being out in the garden. Untitled after visiting chanticleer last week, i came home inspired to try new things, one of which was to play around with willow. willow branches are very pliable and root very easily making beautiful living structures. you can watch a little video by martha here to see how to make a living fence. i just dug up a boxwood hedge which was not doing so well and plan to make this type of fence to replace the hedge. for now my mother had a few bunches of willow that she rooted in a bucket of water which i used to make a simple little fence to weave around a bed of newly planted herbs by the bunny hutch to keep little feet from trampling them. Untitled
the dinosaur kale is growing well among the perennial flowers. i can't wait for fresh raw kale salad! Untitled last summer a friend gave me a peach tree which he had potted up a few years back. it had sprouted up in his compost pile from a peach pit and now it lives in the front of our house along the strip between the sidewalk and the street where it can soak up full sun. it is dripping with fruit! i still need to read a little more about growing and pruning peach trees. oh i am dreaming of peach cobbler! Untitled this week i bought a few asparagus plants and referred back to abby's post since i have never grown asparagus before. one obstacle i have with growing asparagus is that i do not have a place for it to grow all by itself in it's own bed. but i am going to be daring like i have with all of my edibles and try to grow it amongst some other things and see how it does. it can't hurt to try right? Untitled i also bought a beautiful healthy rhubarb plant to plop right in the middle of my front garden which gets loads of sun. i am going to keep this off the beaten path of people passing by on the sidewalk since the leaves are toxic. Untitled the rainbow swiss chard i planted in pots is growing strong and looks beautiful among the pansies and succulents.
the alliums are in full bloom. Untitled
and the strawberries are flowering making our mouths water for smoothies and crumbles.

what's growing in your garden these days?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

late spring happenings: up north edition


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

late spring garden happenings

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!