Friday, April 1, 2016

Cabbage worms

It begins in The Very Hungry Caterpillar written by Brit, Eric Carle, the world's most avid plantsmen, "In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. The next morning the warm sun came up, and pop, out came a tiny, but very hungry, caterpillar." Indeed.
The tiny white dots on the back of my broccoli plants are the eggs of what Southerners call cabbage worms. These tiny, pure green, "worms" will make your plants look like they've been hit with shotgun pellets. They especially love the tender forming heads of new cabbages. I watched the white moth/butterfly fluttering over the plants yesterday thinking I would find the eggs on top. Nope, they were underneath. First, I took a picture for you, then I brushed them off squashing them if I could. Then, I found the perpetrator of the hole on the leaf. Murder! I squashed him with my bare hands. Alternatively, you can use the pesticide bacillus thuringiengus (BT) but it was easy enough to use my hands. Stay vigilant gardening friends! These are bad, bad, bugs. Use the least invasive method to deal with bugs, because it is good for you and the environment.  Also, it is perversely satisfying to squash them.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Lettuce is the plant for novice gardeners. It germinates almost overnight when it's warm, like now, is a cook's best friend, and grows really fast. Here's how I do it from seeds.
I fill a pot or container with potting soil. Sprinkle some seeds around. Add a light layer of more potting soil. Water carefully, gently, lovingly. Leave in the sun. Keep them watered so the germinating seeds do not dry out, every day. In no time there will tiny plants peeking up from beneath the soil. Now, here's the important part. Let the first true leaves develop (see plants at the bottom of the picture). It takes about a week. Don't forget to water. Then take them to the garden, gently take them by their seeds leaves, lift them out of the pot and plant in a prepared bed 4 inches apart. Water with tender loving care and in a month you will be eating salads for pennies.
Tender, loving, care required. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


The weather has been unexpectedly warm here for the past two weeks. Most importantly the temperatures have been in the 60s at night. Hmm. So, I plant and everything is growing great guns! We've been eating salad for days. Potatoes are up! Way up. Baby broccoli and Swiss Chard plants are transplanted. Peas in our backyard garden are so, so. Kale continues. Beets and turnips germinated. I'm using the thinned ones as microgreens in our salads. Onions, garlic and shallots look good which leads to a story about onions. 
We planted onion sets and garlic cloves at the same time in October, just like we always do. El Nino sent twenty days for torrential rains in October that kicked off a monsoon season for the whole winter. Miraculously the garlic survived. The onions took it badly rotting from the inside out. We cut our loses, dug them out and replanted both sets and transplants. Much better. 
We now have two community garden beds in St Pauls. It makes a hug difference to have full sun all day. I'll show pictures when things are up a bit. 
Today's feature photo is parsley. The unsung hero of most dinners. When the rains came in October I had three beautiful established plants. This beauty in a raised bed is the only survivor overwintering with it's companions thyme, sage and rosemary, nicely. 
Italian flat leaf parsley.

Tuscan Herb Salt
Four cups of sage, rosemary, parsley and thyme
Six to eight cloves of garlic
1/2 to 1 cup kosher salt
Chop the herbs. Mix with salt. Pour onto a sheet pan.
Leave on counter for several days stirring occasionally until herbs are dry.
Use all winter on pork, chicken, roasted root vegetables and in sauces.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Days Away

In just a few short days our world will warm here in coastal NC! We are just days away from planting and transplanting. All next week, and the next, temperatures will be in the 60's. Lettuce, carrots, radishes, spinach, turnips and beets are at the top of my list of favorite things to eat and be planted. For a comprehensive list of things to plant now, google 'what to plant now'. A Mother Earth News site will appear in the list. Choose it, fill in your zip code and there will be a list of vegetables and herbs with planting times for sowing indoors or outdoors as well as transplanting. I've been using this site combined with The Weather Channel for years to guide me. Combined with knowledge gleaned from Johnny's Seed on best germination temperatures my little gardens have been an overall success. Wishing all gardeners a great year, we're off and running down South!
An aside: Early February (the 2nd) we had a warm spell. Knowing that small leafy greens will germinate in as little as two days, I seeded arugula in pots outdoors. Just as anticipated they spouted. I covered them these cold (20's and 30's) day and nights with Agribon and they are still alive.
Started in January and bigger now, they are ready for transplant when they are hardened off.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Procrastinate I Do

Quite by accident I have learned that waiting works. Also known as procrastinating, not doing led to a small harvest of early winter turnips and radishes. This summer, not cutting the flowers from basil yielded a summer-long pollinator. Basil, not my favorite herb, did really well this year. I had three huge plants. Letting one go to seed was unknown wisdom. Bees hovered around it until frost a pollinator plant in plain site for all these many years, unloved and unheralded. I gained a lifetime supply of seeds as well. I missed planting garlic in our backyard beds this October and finally got around to planting them in late November. They missed historic rains and may do better than our off site garlic plants that quite frankly look beat-down, bedraggled, sick. Too much rain can be the kiss of death.
Oakleaf. I take them out on sunny days. 
Witness our kale plants and spinach. I had a nice bed of spinach but the Christmas rains and sodden earth from previous rains proved too much. Gone they are, in Yoda speak. The kale plants are slowly dying from too much wet. Initially twenty plants, there are now eleven. The stems rot. It is an ugly way to die. Hope sits on the kitchen window sill, however. I have small lettuces emerging. Soon every sunny window will be home to a planter of growing seedlings. Soon.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Rain! Rain! Too Much Rain!

    There can be too much rain, much as I hate to say it. The drought we had a few years back made me think I would never call "Uncle!" on rain. The collateral damage of too much of too much wet includes moldy take-over of my entire spinach bed and lettuces and halving of our kale plants. It's just ugly. The turnips are beaten down into a mushy mess. Cabbages have died too. The India mustard is barely hanging on and the Swiss Chard is a wait-n-see. Two back-to-back nights of hard frost did not help matters. Perhaps a greenhouse would help...Today we have brisk twenty mile an hour winds, warm temperatures and bright sunshine that will, hopefully, dry things out a bit.
     It is seed catalog time. Every evening I take time to study and think happy thoughts about what I will grow this Spring and Summer. So much to grow. Potatoes and tomatoes, peas and beans, more lettuce and broccoli, I am overwhelmed at the thought of so much goodness growing! Soon I'll be planting all kinds seeds in pots because time is on our side now that we've crossed over the longest day.
Turnips harvested before the five inch Christmas rain. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016


A new gardening year begins with seed catalogs and a wish list. This year, however, poking around on the world wide web I found that Johnny's Seeds was having a sale on lettuce seeds. Sweet! More than any other seed I wanted some Red Sails! They add color to a salad, taste good and tolerate the heat on oncoming summer. And so, before Christmas, with lettuce at it's peak in our Fall garden,
planning and purchases for our Spring garden began. Happy New Year!