Sunday, January 14, 2018

Epic Cold!

Never in my life has it been this cold in The South. Days in the teens and snow in early January are unheard of here in Southeastern NC in particular. How did my winter garden handle ground freezing cold? Surprisingly well thanks to Agribon + and wire supports.
A few years back, poking around on the Johnny's Seeds and Mother Earth News websites I found videos demonstrating way to protect plants from the worst of winter. Elliot Coleman, author of  Winter Harvest Handbook,  appeared on my radar about the same time. We bought some plastic sheeting at a local hardware store and proceeded to fry up some veggies while they grew in the garden. Epic loss. Lettuce seedlings vaporized. Kale sunburnt. Very sad. Regrouping, I realized that even a few hours of contained Southern sun under plastic was like an outdoor oven. So I caved and bought the more expensive Agribon + 19. I made my own low hoops using a video found at the Organic Gardening section of Mother Earth News.
This method has worked for years. But would it work with prolonged temps in the teens? Who knew?
I am happy to announce it does work, with some caveats. Lettuce seedling fared better than mature lettuce. Which is to say the mature lettuce turned to mush. Larger leaves on the cabbages were damaged but the heads survived. It's not pretty but they are alive and rebounded when it warmed. I left the rutabagas and carrots hoping they will spring into action when it warms on a more regular basis. Their greens are beautiful still.
Is a garden under wraps pretty? To the person who eats from it, yes it is.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Every one is doing it. Evaluating their year. Altogether our gardening year was as good as any we have had. We certainly have eaten well, interesting food, every day.

I studied, attended classes, and became a Master Gardener. A long term goal accomplished.Our extension service advisor encouraged Robeson County Master Gardener Volunteers to educate, inform and encourage citizen participation in growing flowering plants for all pollinators. From this I have become more aware of my seed sources and have begun seed collecting more seriously.

I attempted to help revive a failing faith based community garden in our town. My vision for small gardens in neighborhoods that are accessible to all continues to be just that. Having tried more than once here it is perhaps not meant to be. Lucy Bradley's book, Collard Greens and Common Ground, warns that a community garden must be a community effort and most fail, despite the best of intentions, within three years. Using her criteria, L'ton's has failed. Sadly, that failed garden is used as a reason not to have a different one using a different model. Bradley's book is available online for free at: Google the title and it appears first on the list. It's an easy read, less than 100 pages. She's good.

We participate in another community garden in St Pauls, NC and it too may be about to fail. A different model entirely, one of the key players moved away. I actually think the model is a good one. Based on community and school cooperation, built on school property with city funding, it was a learning lab for students and a garden for the community. It worked for a time and I'm hoping the new teacher will land on his/her feet and initiate this spring. Time will tell. Of course, I will reach out.

I learned this year, I grew this year, I succeeded this year, I failed this year, I continue to plan for the future just like every other year of my adult life and gardening is part of it. Altogether? 2017 was a good year.
Bloom where you are planted. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Herb Inventory

Thinking on the herbs I am growing and that I have dried, here goes:

Grown for fresh harvest:
Sweet bay
Oriental garlic

Sweet bay
Fennel (seed)
Holy basil
Dill (seed)
Tuscan herb salt (rosemary, sage, garlic, salt)
Basil herb salt
Chive herb salt

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Fall-Winter gardening is a lot of reward for a little work. It feels a little wrong, in a good way. 😎

Here's the update:
Carrots: Lots of big beautiful carrots this year.
Broccoli: All gone but it sure was good.
Mustard: Keeps on coming.
Cabbage: Forming heads.
Rutabagas: They are nearing harvest.
Lettuce: Lots. All kinds.
Radishes: Slow and steady.
Herbs: All are good.
Leeks and garlic are up and growing nicely.
Kale: Those grown from seeds are slowly maturing. The bought Lacinto is giving us a steady supply, thanks.
Butternut squash needs to be eaten. So I'll make a soup here soon!
The canned green beans and potatoes give us a break from the brassicas. Yay!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Apple Cider Vinegar

So there you are thinking, "Well, this fall/winter gardening gig is boring." No bugs, no hurricanes, no thunderstorms with hail, no water, no extreme heat. Nope. The further down the rabbit hole I go the more interesting it gets.
A few years back my son tried to make vinegar. I don't know if it worked but the idea stuck in my brain. Fast forward to now. Our daughter moved to Charlottesville, VA. There, grow many apple trees. I took a ride out to an orchard, picked way too many apples and made my way home. It's a long ride and I had plenty of time to think about the many bags of apples. Back home, a pile of cores and peels on the cutting board, the vinegar experiment wafted through my brain. So I searched how to make it and ta-da. Now, about a month later, I have my very own, very tasty, very pretty apple cider vinegar.
This, gentle reader, may be the beginning of a fermentation binge.
P.S. I have tried it and, two days later, I am still alive.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Little Seed Saving

A little goes a long way! 

I started seed saving when gifted field pea seeds a few years ago. The seed, Celia's Peas, has been lovingly kept for generations by a Robeson County woman. I have had them a about a decade, the woman who gave them to me was in her 70's. Celia was her grandmother. I'm guessing they have been grown locally for at least 100 years. I read once that plants adapt to their local ecological system when grown there for a long period. Wonder if that is true? They grow upward climbing an old 9 foot wooden ladder beyond it's top. Covered with flowers that change from butter yellow buds to two toned lavender they then produce long pods with up to thirteen peas. Easy peasy to shell, I love them.

A pretty little flower! 

Okra, mustard, lettuce, parsley, fennel, Contender Beans, marigolds and zinnia's are among those I save-and do my best to give them away because Nature is quite generous. An example: just a few okra pods will yield enough seeds to grow enough for our entire county.
Seed saving has the added benefit of adding flowers for bees in the garden. Bees especially love simple (not frilly) flowers It seems that herbs are especially attractive to them. So save some seeds and help the bees. Remember, unless you buy organically grown seeds all seeds have been treated with pesticides and those pesticides persist in the flowers and the soil. No bueno for the insects.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Summer's Over

With the harvest of the last few peppers, the summer garden season came to a close today. Imagine a door slowly, quietly, clicking to. Of course I have regrets. I wish I had planted more, more often, and more varieties. Laughable. Our small kitchen beds put out lots of food, all of it interesting and truly good. More? Is it me or is it all gardeners?
The next sunny day, I will pull out the broccoli because freeze is predicted.  Lettuce, cabbage and carrots will get covered to protect from the cold, cold night temperatures. The temperature change will be abrupt, one of those "Who left the fridge door open?" events so best to play it safe. We somehow manage to eat from our kitchen garden every day, still. Here are pictures of where we are now...

Savoy cabbages are starting to form heads. Ah, the sweet sound of the crunch when sliced open. Now that's something to look forward to on tacos! 

Last of the broccoli on the chopping block. Ready to be steamed with a squeeze of lemon. 

Roasted Red Core Chantenay were for supper last night. Tres bon!