Monday, May 30, 2016

New Composter

Every year I have one big experiment. This year it is a new, in the garden, compost bin. The inspiration came from a P. Allen Smith show on PBS way back in the dark days of winter. Very simply it is a wire cage linked into a tube around which are planted three tomatoes. The wire cage serves as a compost bin that, as garden and food waste is breaking down, fertilizes the tomatoes. It also keeps the tomatoes consistently moist and has, through this chilly Spring, kept the plants warmer. Here, now the end of May, the plants are taller than me, and are loaded with tomatoes. When the plants die back I'll let the compost finish breaking down and dig it into the garden. So simple! So brilliant!
The easiest composter ever! See July 9, 2015 for post on how to grow tomatoes.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Summer squash!

Hand pollinated because the bees are not here this year.

Way back in March I bought squash plants from a big box vendor of garden seedlings. If I hadn't had a plan they'd have been freeze dried several times. After planting them, I covered them with a wire fence tunnel, wrapped it all in Agribon and waited. They were covered for at least a month, warm and cozy in their gauzy cocoon surviving a frost and some really cold nights. Fast forward to early May and we are eating fresh summer squash. Sadly, the bees were hit hard by that same frost weather so I am pollinating them with a small paint brush every day. They are naturally grown using supernatural techniques.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Potatoes!

Have mercy! What a beautiful, busy Spring! There have been weddings and celebrations and moving and projects and, naturally, garden plantings aplenty. Every morning I do a walkabout. I pull small weeds, water if needed, harvest, check for bugs (good and bad) and look for distressed plants. (When I worked I did it in the afternoon as soon as I got home from work.)Today I found a dead potato plant. Digging around I found a handful of new potatoes. There were a handful of asparagus spears that were just right for cutting and all the mature lettuce came out. Move over, rover, for summer plantings. Hot weather is on the way!
Hidden treasure! 

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.
Peace.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lettuce

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

Busy!

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.
Enjoy!

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.