By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I’ve planted four packets of carrot seeds. One was a multi-color pack from Bookcliff that promised to give me tasty carrots in strange colors. I can’t remember the second packet, but I know my cat was delighted with the carrot patch and decided it made a fine litter box, so those ones didn’t come up.
The third packet was for tiny globe carrot seeds. They were an heirloom variety from Bookcliff and supposed to be good. It’s been more than three weeks and not a single one came up.
I got a fourth packet of little globe carrot seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds last week as a thank you for ordering seeds. I planted some of those on Saturday, because hope springs eternal in the mind of a gardener and I’m sure that they’ll come up.
The other day, I was poking around the patch from the multi-color pack and discovered the carrots were big enough to pull. They weren’t enormous, but I remember from my mom’s garden when I was a kid that the small carrots were sometimes the sweetest.
Sadly, these carrots, while colorful, are not tasty. The white one tasted how I imagine a young sapling would taste. The yellow ones were bitter, and the purple one was boring and tasteless. I didn’t know that until after I’d cleaned them up, cut them into sticks and put them on a plate with an orange carrot from a package that had been in my fridge for weeks. Maybe even decades.
I took one bite and declared that the carrots were nasty. My husband, who didn’t know the orange one was from the fridge said, “this orange one’s pretty good.”
So much for tasty, fresh vegetables from the garden. Maybe it’s the soil, maybe it’s the shade (I gave the sunniest spots in the garden to tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, tomatillos and peppers) and maybe it’s the seeds. All I know is that I’m glad only a few of these multi-color carrots came up, because they’re a waste of valuable garden space.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Monday, July 11, 2011
Last year my husband hastily fashioned a small cabana out of plywood and spikes to pamper the drooping green peppers and withering eggplant. The results were big, healthy plants and plump fruit.
This year, Scott went all out.
The frame is PVC sections and joints, 10 feet by 10 feet. Nothing is glued, so we can break it down at the end of the season and reconfigure any way we see fit in the future. The shade fabric is ziptied on. Spikes serve as anchors. We probably spent about $50 for everything.
With the addition of leftover pavers to weed from and chips as groundcover, this year’s peppers, eggplants and basil are thriving, even after being planted late. I hope that soon everything will be happily yielding the raw ingredients of stuffed peppers, eggplant parmesana and pesto.
The shade fabric is supposed to lower temps by up to 15 degrees, a welcome respite for finicky plants. Heat-loving tomatillo (newly replanted from their feral start in the flowers) and chili peppers are outside the shade frame, where they can soak up rays like a Quartzsite snowbird in February.
By Erin McIntyre
Saturday, July 9, 2011
One of my favorite things to grow in the garden is garlic – because you plant it in the fall, it sprouts out of the ground in the spring, and grows into an impressively tall plant by mid-summer. It takes up very little room in the garden, so I’m willing to dedicate the real estate to the bulbs even though I have to wait to dig them up at the end of the summer.
For the most part, garlic is very low-maintenance. I’ve never had problems with bugs, and it actually repels deer in the garden. There is one thing you should do with garlic this time of year, though. The green shoots that grew out of the top of the bulb should be trimmed off, so the plant doesn’t waste energy on creating a flower instead of growing the garlic bulb in the soil. This part of the garlic plant is called the scape.
Just because we cut the curly tops off doesn’t mean they have to go into the compost pile. Garlic scapes are actually delicious, as edible as the garlic bulb, and they taste milder than you would think.
Yes, there’s definitely a hint of garlic, but they’re sweeter than garlic cloves. You can roast them, grill them and pickle them, but my favorite way to use them up is to make pesto.
Quick Garlic Scape Pesto
¼ c. toasted almonds
¾ c. chopped garlic scapes
½ c. extra-virgin olive oil (break out the really good green stuff here)
¼ c. grated parmesan and a few grinds of fresh black pepper
Salt to taste
In a food processor, process the almonds and garlic until they form a fine paste (probably about 20 pulses). Stream in the olive oil with the processor running, until everything is mixed well. Put the pesto in a bowl and stir in the cheese (do NOT do this in the processor, because it will make the cheese gummy). Then add the pepper and some salt to taste (the cheese is really salty so you might not need any salt). Use as a sauce with pasta, to top bruschetta, or make a really delicious mayonnaise spread for Panini sandwiches. If for some crazy reason you can’t eat it all at once, it freezes well.
Erin is the newest Dirty Gardener to be roped into this gig. She's a former reporter with The Daily Sentinel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Annie LeVan
Friday, July 8, 2011
I have withheld participating in the blog until now for a number of reasons, the biggest being that I’m just a little intimidated. Gardening over the course of the years has for me been less than successful. During the busy years of raising kids, the garden consisted of a few tomatoes, lettuce and onions. Because the dogs took a liking to green tomatoes and trampled much of everything else, despite my best effort to fence them out of the garden, we never got to enjoy the "fruit " of our crops. Plus the city water cost factor just made it much easier to take the short drive to the farm markets and enjoy garden fresh without the labor.
Last year, the new area, new (very poor) soil and too, too many weeds left me far too discouraged to blog.
This year, with much manure, chicken coop roughage, and delicate planning, the harvest is going to be bountiful.
Truthfully, it has been bountiful so far.
We have been enjoying lettuce, spinach, zucchini, kale and green onions so far, but wait.... I see purple.
The eggplants have started producing fruit.
Even the artichoke is growing with vigor.
As a matter of fact I have already replanted lettuce to replace the overgrown bunches which are starting to turn bitter. This week should start the overabundance.
As the greenhouse experts tell us, “amend, amend, amend the soil,” was the trick this year, with great contributions from the trees, horses and chickens. Alas I finally have a garden I am happy to spend time in, pull weeds and, as my husband calls it, enjoy "garden therapy."
By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Carol Clark told me I should blog about all the weird things I’m trying to grow and include a list of all the seeds I’ve purchased. I thought about it and agreed, especially since my husband doesn’t read this blog and has no idea how much money I’ve spent on seeds! But seeds are cheaper than plants, and plants are cheaper than Harley Davidsons or golf, which are his two favorite summertime hobbies, so I’m not losing any sleep over the number of seeds I purchased this year.
Here are some of the seed packets. This photo doesn't show them all.
When it comes to seeds, I like to support my favorite garden center when possible, so I buy some seeds at Bookcliff Gardens. I also like to try unusual varieties, so I purchased some seeds from Park Seeds, some from Tomato Growers Supply Company and others from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. Lest you think I’m totally nuts, I split some seed packs with a gardening friend, so we share costs on the varieties we order online.
I’ll include where I got the seeds on the list:
Sun gold hybrid – Tomato Growers
Aunt Ginny’s – Tomato Growers
Kellogg’s Breakfast – Park Seeds
Royal Hillbilly - Tomato Growers
Virginia Sweet – Tomato Growers
Jetsetter - Tomato Growers
Sioux – Tomato Growers
Viva Italia – Tomato Growers
Big Jim – Park Seed
Poblano – from Carol Clark
Thai – Park Seed
Chitzen Itza – Park Seed
Park’s early season – Park Seed
Flavorburst – Park Seed
Cajun Belle hybrid – Park Seed
Patisson Panache Jaune Et Vert Scallop – Baker Creek
G Star hybrid – Park Seed
Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin – recent order from Baker Creek that I’m hoping will be ready for Thanksgiving pies
This is my biggest garden. In spite of the shade in the photo, it gets the most sun out of all my garden areas, so it has most of the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons, peppers and other sun-loving plants.
Lemon cucumbers – left over from last year, purchased at Bookcliff
Mexican sour gherkin (aka mouse melon) – Baker Creek
Pickling cukes – from Carol Clark
Tigger melon – Baker Creek
Green machine – Baker Creek
Golden watermelon – Baker Creek (I didn’t think this one came up, but in my last garden stroll, I spotted a watermelon leaf in a cantaloupe patch I planted because the watermelon didn’t come up)
Kansas (cantaloupe) – from Carol Clark (she got it from Baker Creek)
Honeydew – Bookcliff
Carrots – four varieties, three from Bookcliff, one little round globe carrot as a thank-you gift from my recent Baker Creek order
Purple onions – planted mini-bulbs from Bookcliff
Potatoes – three different varieties – Red & Yukon Gold from Bookcliff, le Ratte fingerlings from Amy Hamilton in the newsroom
Garlic – planted bulbs purchased from Bookcliff last fall
Radishes – two types, both from Bookcliff
Parsnips –Baker Creek
This is my two-season garden. It's already produced peas, lettuce, garden cress and spinach, which I'll finish pulling out this weekend. Later in the month, I'm planting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and perhaps some kale for a fall crop.
Green stuff & other veggies
Green beans – pole bean seeds from Bookcliff, bush bean seeds from Carol Clark & Chinese red noodle beans from Baker Creek
Spinach – two from Bookcliff that I planted last fall and one from Baker Creek that I plan to plant in August for a fall crop and again in early November for an early spring crop next year
Swiss Chard – Bookcliff
Kale – three different kinds, all from Bookcliff (red Russian is the best, in my opinion, which explains why I purchased two packs of red Russian, in addition to blue dwarf and an heirloom variety, lacinato, which was a total disappointment.)
Broccoli – two different types, one from Park and one overwinter type I recently ordered from Baker Creek
Chinese cabbage – Bookcliff
Nero di Toscana cabbage – recent order from Baker Creek that I’ll plant for a fall crop
Lettuce – at least three different types, planted one last fall, ordered a heat-resistant one from Park Seeds this spring, and have no idea where the other lettuce came from
Garden cress – Baker Creek
Peas – two edible pod types from Baker Creek, one from Park Seed
Cauliflower – two types, one from Park Seed (cheddar hybrid) that didn’t produce and a recent order from Baker Creek for a fall crop
Ping Tung Eggplant – Baker Creek
This is a small garden square in the back yard. I'm experimenting with pole beans (which aren't coming up!) on the eastern side, along with potatoes, broccoli, squash, a few onions and some carrots that also refuse to sprout.
Herbs & seeds
Rosemary – Bookcliff
Basil – Bookcliff
Thai basil – Bookcliff
Red leaf perilla (aka shiso) – Baker Creek
Oregano – Carol Clark
Amaranth – Baker Creek
Quinoa – Baker Creek
Marigolds – two pkgs from Bookcliff
Nasturtiums – two pkgs from Bookcliff
Zinnia, mostly collected from last year, one striped variety from Bookcliff
Petunia – Bookcliff
Love-in-a-Mist – Baker Creek, thank you for first seed order
Orange Cosmos – collected seeds from last year
Verbena – collected from last year
Celosia – collected from last year
I’m probably missing a few things and I also planted a few blooming perennials from Bookcliff in my new garden space. I’ll give a progress report on weird varieties as they start producing.
Yes, I have lots of garden spaces. They make me happy and give me something to fuss over.