Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring is sleeping in

The slight tease of warmth last week was like a teenager sitting up on Saturday morning, realizing there's no school and going back to sleep.

They are calling for a snow/rain mix tomorrow. I think I hear Spring snoring.  No doubt she will get up, but when?

I stepped out today after work to see what was happening. The beds are in desperate need of a good cleaning - Saturday is the day.

But, cheerfully there are more signs of life now that the crucus clump has wilted. One of my favorites, Iris reticulata has finally appeared.

The Hellebores are budding out amongst the leaf litter. I can't wait until they show their faces in earnest.

Finally the ostrich ferns are coiled, ready for a slow motion unfurling. But that'll wait still Spring is up and around. I need to thin them a bit and give some away before then.

I just hope she wakes up soon.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Special Delivery

 I came home today and checked the mail.  Hooray! No bills and two packages that are garden related!

As you know part of the experiment this summer will be square foot gardening.

I purchased planting templates from Alex over at The Corner Yard. I also picked up a few copies of Minnie Rose Lovgreen's classic Recipe for Raising Chickens. One for me and one each for two friends who raise chickens.

The templates will help keep the proper spacing in the square foot beds. Could I have made them myself? Sure! But there is something to be said about supporting a fellow gardener and blogger. Keep up the good work Alex!

The Chicken book is charming, and the anecdotes about the author in the back are very interesting. It's super informative in a down homey way. I don't have any chickens, yet.

Anyway - off to transplant some tomatoes and start some Swiss chard.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Making room for growth

Last weekend I took apart the old garden bed, effectively making two. The thing is, my plans include 2 more 4x8 beds. With this in mind, there is not much room to manuever. Leave it to the Dear Wife to suggest removing the second stair case.

I hemmed, I hawed. I succumbed.

Some pictures are little messed up because I had the white balance set for inside.  I tried to correct for it. Sorry for that.

The stairs that have been there since we built the deck in 2001.

A little crowbar, hammer, and drill gun action and they are out.

A gaping hole, kinda like losing a front tooth!

I patched it up a bit, it still needs the top railing but you can see the two beds better arranged. I'm thinking one more 4x8 box for this year.

I still need to take the side railings off the stairs, we'll likely use the stairs themselves to set containers on.

While I feel pretty good about getting a jump start on this, there is still plenty of cleanup to do in the other beds, but I am ahead of schedule.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Potted Seedlings

The last few years, before I got more interested in vegetable gardening, I would start most of my vegetables by purchasing seedlings. There is nothing wrong with that, but it transfers some control over to the big producers.

I want a more hands-on experience, so I've started some from seed this year. A few homemade pots, started a while ago and some new pots started tonight.

Tonight's new starts include:
Hot lemon pepper
Kung Pao peppers
Cimmaron Lettuce
Sweet bell pepper

No, there are no pictures, no need to show pots of seed starter.

The other sprouts are in the south window of the "sun room" and they seem to be doing well.
They include:
3 kinds of tomato ( Cherry, Roma, Rutgers)
Black Beauty eggplant
2 peppers (Jalapeno, Habenero)

Yes, I'm a little heavy on the chilies and tomatoes, but that is what we eat and preserve.  It may not seem like many seedlings but the Square Foot Gardening method suggests that we don't need as many because we won't be thinning. I like the theory.

While we are out here, I might as well show  you the "sun room." Originally an exterior porch on my little Sears house (circa 1927), this was converted to a three season porch before I bought the house 10 years ago. I ripped out the walls, and added a ton of insulation and  now it is usable year-round. Yes there is a ton of stuff in here. I live here, it's not a show place!

Anyway, there are seedlings growing, but I can't wait to get outside and going on the beets and carrots!

What do you have in little pots waiting for warmer weather?

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Vegetable garden options and the beginnings of a new Square Foot Garden

As I've mentioned over on Facebook, my plan this year is to try several different methods for food production. here is what I'm thinking

1) I've got the big veggie plot over at my friends house. It did pretty well last year, but it is still a hassle to get over there except on weekends.  That can make for some heavy duty weeding when we do get over there. Water is also an issue. Last year we were very fortunate in that we did get pretty consistant rain. But if not, without the homeowners constant attention, which is not very fair to them, we could have some problems dispite the rain barrel setup. We'll likely use a few rows, but not sure how much. This needs to be worked out with the home owner.

2) There is the back yard that is mainly given over to perennials. There was a very small garden (4x7) that last year provided some tomatoes, a ton of basil, and some entertainment as I constructed a hoop house in the spring and fall.

Yesterday, I took about an hour to dig out all the soil, and cut the boxes in half. Now I have two 4x7 beds to use. I'm planning to take out the stairs so I may orient the boxes in a better manner. That's a project for another day

and 3) I'm planning on doing some SIPs (Sub irrigated planters) also known as earthboxes, or utility bucket SIPs. This should be a fun way to check out this method.  Today I purchased a large number of 5 gallon buckets that I'll convert for this purpose (they were on sale)- Watch this space.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Witnessing a Crane migration

This is a bit off topic - but too cool not to mention.

I came out of a shop yesterday, and could hear the soft calls of a bird I wasn't familiar with. It sound a little like a turkey, but not quite. I looked about - nothing out of the ordinary.

Then I looked up.

I was stunned to see massive V's of migrating birds moving from southwest to northeast. I apologize for the very poor picture, but my cell phone was all I had with me.

 Looking almost straight overhead, there appeared to be a gathering point where large numbers of birds were wheeling about, climbing the thermal waves before heading off again in newly formed chevrons. All the while they were calling and vocalizing. It was this rendezvous point that I had heard.

It was as if along the migration route, high in the air, they stopped to regroup, calling loudly for approaching birds to locate, join the flock,then regrouping before moving on.

I stood transfixed for about 20 minutes, and until I saw no more approaching cranes. I could hear them long after I could not see them.

Witnessing this spectacle was a privilege, made all the more special as I was headed my mother's grave to mark the seventh anniversary of her passing. She was an avid back yard birder, and would have really appreciated this moment.

A little research indicated that these were likely sandhill cranes. The timing is right and the visual ID, what there was of it, seems to be about right.  I'll never forget it.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crocuses are popping

There is no turning back, oh, it might yet snow, but spring shall not be denied!

It's amazing what we see when we look closer.  This little clump grows each year.

I like these scattered in the front lawn, soon to be joined by Daffodils and the Magnolia blooming.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Peony bed clean out and signs of life.

I'm itching to get out side, it's about 40F, a grey and windy day. But ... the snow is almost gone - a couple crusty patches in the shady areas still stubbornly cling to existence, but there are signs of life.

Last year I didn't clean out the peony bed until April 10th,  so I feel good about being ahead of schedule.

Here's where we start, Notice I don't use the hoops, as this bed grows almost as a hedge and in this bed hoops don't work well. The wire fencing works very well, supports the plants and disappears once the plants get going.

Lift off the screening, cut off the stalks, and rake it out. Some of the plants are already starting to come up.

Put the screens back up. What an improvement!

Cleaned out the rest of the bed, back to the fence. In one spot, where last year I had geraniums, I decided to plant some False Indigo. The soil is gorgeous.

I got the seeds from accomplished blogger, author, and all around great human being Shawna Coronado. These seeds are way cool. They were once used to make baby rattles.

Split open, they look prehistoric. Hopefully they will sprout and  in a year will bloom.

I poked around a little bit, the crocuses are sprouting.

Tulips are thrusting up through the lawn.

The sedum "Hens and Chicks" wintered well.

But there. in the bed, a vole hole.

We'll deal with that another day.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shade structure construction

When I started the yard had very little shade. It was great for most flowers, yet I wanted a shady area to grow some shade plants, hostas and ferns, perhaps some bleeding hearts. With only the west of the garage providing diminishing shade until noon, I decided to build a structure that would extend the shade to a larger area for a longer period.

The plan for the shade structure took some time - I wanted it free standing with a lattice top for dappeled light - also I wanted it substantial enough to support vining plants.
These pictures date to 2003. Have a laugh at the old fashions!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Starting some Seeds

It doesn't feel like it, but this is really only the second season that I'm vegetable gardening in earnest.  Clearly I am still learning, and there are many firsts that I'll go through. For example, starting seeds.


In March.

We are about 10 weeks before being frost free. I know for others, down south USA or in Britain for example, spring has sprung. But today, it was snowing here.  At  least I can start some seeds, or try to anyway. The microgreens didn't turn out so well, so I'm not completely confident in my success. But for the price of a single plant, I can start multiple plants. I like that.

All winter I've been reading different gardening books, and one that did a good job of showing how to start seeds with not a great deal of effort is The New Victory Garden book by Bob Thomson. While he uses 4" pots, I'm going to recycle some plastic tubs from cottage cheese and yogurt. The idea to split them is my wife's. So she gets the credit for that.

Here we are with the tubs. They were thoroughly washed.

Measure down 2.5 "

Cut while connecting the dots.

One tub + one lid = two potting buckets

Drill holes to allow drainage (and wicking)

10 pots done

Fill with seed starter.

I've got tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli, peppers, celery.

Planted and sitting in a bath - we'll see if it wicks up by morning.

Once moist they go on a heating pad until they germinate.

So we shoud have spouts in a bit of time, then they'll move into the sunny south window.  Follow along, it should be educational.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Defeated by tiny little greens, microgreens in fact

I don't like to admit failure but there comes a time when it is just not worth keeping up the fight. The microgreens just didn't do what a) I expected them to, or b) do it fast enough. I've had enough expereince growing things, these suckers were just too slow. They had moisture and light, but never seemed to get going.

In the end they smelled bad. I don't want to eat that!

I take full responsibility, they didn't fail, I failed them. I'm pretty disappointed but then again, a meal did not depend on them, they were going to be a pretty garnish for goodness sake.

I'll try again sometime, or just focus on the coming spring.  Failure is OK as long as you learn from it.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

 The Gastronomic Gardener
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