Friday, May 24, 2019

May 2019

Allowed to sprout from bird feeder! 
Transitioning from fall/winter to summer I am always busy in the garden but this year I traveled which really skewed the timeline. Back on track, only the kale, cabbage and Swiss Chard are evidence of cooler times and soon they will be outta here! Temperatures are soaring into the high 90's today and will persist for at least the next week.

Tomato fruit, growing in pots, are about to change color. I am trying to think of the advantages of growing in pots, but really, it is a lot of work here where it is so hot. I need even bigger pots and bigger pots mean bigger ugly. Perhaps oak barrels are the answer.

Shifting away from a Southern gardener's biggest challenge (tomatoes), everything else is chugging right along. Potatoes are harvested I planted okra on Monday and they were up by Wednesday, green beans are producing generously, zucchini is good. Peppers are forming on the bell variety. Ground cherries are starting to fruit. JalapeƱos lookin' good, same with cayenne. Field peas will be planted tomorrow and off we go enjoy summer's bounty!

Every exposed area of soil has been mulched as we have flipped from too wet to too dry. I use wheat straw which is pretty, decomposes well and does a good job of retaining moisture.

I am harvesting oregano for drying and will do the same with chives mid-morning today.  Then I will hide from the heat!
Pearly white against pale green. Perfection! 

Red Norland what Southerners call "new potatoes" because the skin can be rubbed off (but who does that any more?).  

A handful every few days and we have enough for dinner. 



Friday, May 3, 2019

Tips

Parsley flower. Look closely. The brown spots are flea beetles. 

Most experienced gardeners recommend weeding early and often. Truth. It will make gardens more productive. Mulch is the first option here in the hot, hot south.

My tip, which ties weeding for first place? Look closely at all your plants every day. One thing leads to another. An example: Looking at my newly planted ground cherries I saw leaves were  peppered with holes. Hmmm. Slowly shifting gears I looked up and just above a flowering parsley plant left for native bees. Aha! Flea beetles nestled the underside of parsley flowers. One hand under each flower, the other giving a gentle shake and down fall the flea beetles. It takes a few seconds for them to right themselves. No chemicals used.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fall to Spring

Fall planted lettuce and spinach. Pretty! 
     It's spring here in Southeastern N.C.! Flowers and plants are pushing out and up everywhere! Yay! This winter attended a few classes in order learn new and better ways to garden.
     Here is a tip from Mark Weathington, Director of JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C. the speaker at our Master Gardener Annual Symposium.  He recommends planting 4 O'clocks to keep Japanese Beetles out of edible garden beds. They prefer 4 O'clocks to just about anything else, eat them, and then die. They literally love them to death. It is an easy solution to a hard problem.
     Speaking of die offs, some were epic this year. Rosemary and sage both died within days of Hurricane Florence - too much water, too quick, with nowhere to go. The oregano almost croaked but has rebounded no doubt because it was in a raised container. I am amazed the cabbage did not get root rot. It survived our winter rains and is now forming heads. Looking good, right?!
I have adopted the no dig method in all but the back bed in our yard (the husband cannot stop digging there.) All the herbs and veggies shown are growing in no dig beds and all are doing well. Hip, hip, hooray for not digging.
     In no time we'll have potatoes and beans, and before we know it summer will be here!
     Some photos of my fall to spring garden survivors...
Planted in November. 
More November plantings!

Planted late February. Red Norland early potatoes with a random horseradish.  Oops. Who knew it was a garden thug. 
Parsley and thyme with shallots and kale.
Planted in November it is now heading up. 
Newbies just emerging. Lettuce, carrots and beets. 

Broad beans are now over 3 feet tall. 

                                                                          
Swiss chard beside garlic started in October. 
Rain almost killed the oregano. That is saying something. 
The future. Tomatoes, peppers and herbs. 











































Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Late Winter or Early Spring?

Ours has been a relatively warm winter and here mid-February we find ourselves with temperatures in the 60's and 70's wondering should I plant? Then it comes up cool and rainy. So yes, I impulsively planted and covered. Radishes came up within days, I keep watching for carrots, lettuce and beets planted last week to push up and, as a plus, we'll have rain every day this week which will be perfect for young seedlings and transplants.

Currently put out to chit in a warm, sunny bedroom are seed potatoes. Some are already starting to sprout and will be put out next week when I sort out how much rain there will be. We've had way too much rain since Hurricane Florence (and that was an epic amount of water) so I will sit tight and wait on those until March. I bought from an organic seed company out of Maine, Wood Prairie Farms, last year, like the results and varieties offered and have bought from them again this year. A plus, they sell organically grown potatoes for eating as well. Yay!

Scott brought home broccoli and cabbage from the seeds store last week those are in and will hopefully do well.

Exciting news! The broad beans aka fava beans are beginning to flower. I am quite pleased with how well they are doing. Spinach planted last fall survived and are growing in this warmth. I am ever hopeful that we'll have enough for salads and for cooking. Swiss chard has survived the coldest nights  under cover and we've enjoyed off and on this winter. I have a recipe using Swiss chard with scallops that is quite warming on cold nights.

Herbs that survived the hurricane are thriving and enhancing meals almost daily. Did I tell you about Green Soup. I know. I did. But we love it and use all combinations of greens to make it, nothing is exempt from inclusion in this brassica based elixir- rutabaga, Swiss chard, collard, broccoli, mustard, kale have all been thrown into the pot. A reminder, do not forget the squeeze of lemon. It's no different than adding a splash of vinegar to braised greens, that time honored tradition of Southern cuisine, which adds that something that puts them over the top! Salud!
The seed packet says they like cool, wet weather. I am chuffed. 
!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Kale

Last year the kale I grew was dwarf. I do not usually grow many of any plant because there are only two people to grow for so ten kale plants is typically plenty. But, dwarf makes lots less. This year I got it right and am growing standard plants which are quite generous placing Green Soup squarely on the menu. I have written about this wonderful soup in the past but here it is again. Any green combination works-collards, rutabagas, broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach and of course kale. Do. Not. Skip. The Lemon! It is critically important! Salud!
https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/basic-green-soup

New to the soup rotation is Tuscan Bean Soup. As with Green Soup, any leafy green is good. The parmesan rind really is a game changer, though it is still good without. It is a hearty vegetarian soup.
https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/01/30-minute-tuscan-white-bean-soup-recipe.html

I pulled some Sparkler radishes to serve with Christmas dinner and served our own broccoli as well. Both were lovely contributions! Only slightly spicy they were pretty on the deviled egg plate! Oh, right, a leaf of parsley atop deviled eggs is festive after sprinkling on paprika. Merry Christmas, it was!


Grown under cover they are a sweet, slightly spicy vegetable in fall. Many more to come!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Experiments

This year I am trying a few new, to me, winter vegetables. I bought Napa cabbage seedlings, planted in one of my 4x4 raised beds, it survived Hurricane Florence and prospered. It is magnificent and very tasty. I bought shallot bulbs and they are up and doing well.
Now for the one that excites me most: fava beans. I have meant to grow them for years but, not sure exactly how to grow and tend them, did not buy seeds. This year I watched some videos did some reading and bought seeds. It took a lot of self discipline to wait and plant them late Fall but I did it. Doubting they would come up I pretty much forgot to check them but when I did there they were! Fifteen of the sixteen seeds germinated and are producing leaves. They will bear in early Spring if all goes well.
In other news, we have just a few more broccoli heads to harvest, mustard is still producing, the kale is beautiful, radishes are thriving under cover as are lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard and (gasp) spinach. We have abundant parsley this year. I gave away parsley seed heads at a regional Master Gardener event and was advised to rub the seeds off the seed head without covering with soil. I tried it and now have a now have a nice bed of parsley! I will never tease off the seeds again...
The broad bean experiment begins. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Broccoli

Broccoli. The ubiquitous brassica we take for granted is truly a thing of beauty. In truth, I think all brassicas are pretty. I did not grow up eating from this category of food at all. Rarely were they served, not even the most Southern of them all, king collard. Food for the poor, I had no idea how to cook them when I finally grew them. A friend explained the process and I read recipes to come up with a method.
Back to broccoli: I microwave for less than three minutes in a covered dish with a splash of water. Squeeze on lemon juice and that is it! Food for the gods. 
Now the greens: Collards and turnips are strong stuff so I add in other greens-kale, mustard, rutabaga-to tame them a bit. A tip; a grating of nutmeg rounds out the flavor.
For those who buy their greens: Use kale for Caesar Salad following the America's Test Kitchen recipe. No kale rubbing required. There is a trick. Soak the torn greens in 110 degree water to tame the sharp notes of the green.
Saluda!

Which is the fairest of them all? It is a hard call. (Curly kale)


An aside: My personal favorite is mustard. Every year I let a few plants go to seed and save them for the next year. As they bloom the bees, all types, harvest the pollen. Bees love brassica blossoms! Also, the flowers are quite tasty in salads, especially mustard which adds a spicy, bright yellow kick.