Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Most Important Gardening Resource your garden journal. Do you have one?

I think last year starting a garden journal was the best piece of advice someone gave me. How else would I remember how long it took for my seeds to germinate or get their first true set of leaves or when my first cherry tomato ripened. This information is very helpful when the Impatience sets in. You know what I'm talking about...when it just seems like that seed isn't going to sprout or those tomatoes are never going to turn red.

Your journal doesn't need to be fancy; a simple notepad would do. And, your journal doesn't need to have an entry every single day. You can just write on the more significant days (planting, sprouting, putting outside, harvest, etc).

Putting together a journal can be a fun way to spend an hour or so in anticipation of planting.

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mark Your Calendars: Forgotten Annuals & Old-Fashioned Seed Swap!

As reported by Washington Gardener (a sponsor of the event), Sunday March 28th at the Historical Society of DC (2pm) the DC Family Urban Gardening Series will host a FREE lecture on forgotten annuals (lovelies such as cosmos, nasturtiums, columbines, etc.) and how to start them from seed, followed by a seed swap.

This sounds like a fabulous event and I'm very disappointed I already have plans for Sunday. I attended this lecture series last year and it was fantastic, so I encourage you to attend!

For more information, check out the Washington Gardener's blog page.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Recipe: Spring Pesto

This recipe is hardly revolutionary; I've heard about subbing spinach or arugula in for basil before. But what does make this revolutionary, at least in my mind, is the idea that it's possible to have pesto in spring. Early spring even! Now, this is a pesto with a bit of a kick thanks to the pepperiness of the arugula. It's not as sweet or licorice-y as pesto with basil, but it does have it's own charm.

It's lovely tossed with warm pasta. To really up the "It's Spring!" quotient, I added peas (frozen, but fresh would be lovely when they are available) to the pasta. It would also be nice to use garlic scapes instead of garlic cloves when they are available. This is also good as a topping for chicken breasts, a baguette...anything...yum...

2 c arugula leaves
1/2 c Parm
1/2 c chopped walnuts (or pine nuts)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 c olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Toast the walnuts (or pine nuts) in a dry skillet until fragrant but not burnt.
2. Combine arugula, parm, walnuts, garlic and salt & pepper in a food processor (or blender). Start up the appliance and stream slowly in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Use as desired.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What You Get For Your Money: Late Winter Farmer's Market Edition

Today I went armed with $30 to the Farmer's Market. I ended up only spending $17 as we have a bunch of apples leftover from last week's grocery trip and I decided to resist bread, cheeses and other non-produce deliciousness for reasons of my waistline. :)

What did I get for $17?
5 sweet potatoes, 1 large bag (probably at least 1lb) of mixed salad greens, 1 small bag of arugula, 3 leeks and 4 parsnips. With this haul (plus things from my pantry), I plan to make Leek and Bacon Frittata served with mixed greens in a lemony vinaigrette, Spring Pesto (made using arugula instead of basil) over pasta, and maybe roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips to go with grilled chicken if the weather continues to be nice.

This will be enough produce for us for dinner for the week.

What else was there at the market?
There was, of course, the non-produce vendors...lots of meat, cheese, baked good, soap, prepared foods, coffee, etc. purveyors. The produce was mostly root vegetables (potatoes, turnips, radishes, beets, etc) and storage fruits (like apples and pears) with some lettuces and leafy greens thrown in. There were also seedlings available...including basil and tomatoes.

Why are people selling basil and tomatoes now? At least put a warning label on them! While the air temperature may be a balmy 75*F today, that's not going to last and the soil temperature isn't that warm. You plop a tomato in temperatures that are just now coaxing daffodils to bloom, the plant is going to go all "What is THIS?!?" on you. Planting before the soil and air temperatures cooperate isn't going to give you an early harvest. If anything, it might inhibit the plant's overall growth, according to a horticulturalist on the local news last night. I don't blame the people that are buying these plants; they are probably just over-eager, very excited new gardeners. I blame the people selling these plants too early and without any mention that they need to be kept inside.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Seed Starting

This time of year it's all seed-starting, all the time! Which is fine by me because I love it. It's totally amazing to plant this little speck in some soil, water it every few days and BAM! a plant! Like giving birth but without the pain (or the screaming, pooping human).

And, speaking of giving birth...

Ever heard of pregnancy brain? I totally didn't think it existed and that preg ladies just used it as an excuse for forgetfulness. To everyone that was ever pregnant before me: I am sorry I thought that...I believe you now. There's something about incubating a human that makes your short-term memory a little wonky. As in, I thought I posted about last week's seed starting but when I pulled up my blog to announce what sprouted first, I realized I hadn't. Whoops.

Anywho, yeah...seed starting. Last weekend, I started most of my summer vegetables. It was rainy and gross and it sounded like a lovely way to spend my time. I started everything but cucumbers because the packet said to start them 4 wks before I'm going to put them outside. Okie dokie! For more info on seed starting, see my previous post. Oh, and I had to buy some more potting mix for the seed starting at the tune of $10.99.

I'm pleased to announce that the zucchini and the marigolds are the winners of the First Sprout Contest. Although, I suppose the marigolds technically win as they are fully sprouting and the zucchini has just started to emerge. Last year, my basil and dahlias had sprouted and this point and the tomatoes sprouted a day later. I don't see that happening this year...I think I need another seed heating mat.
The kale and kohlrabi I planted before are getting their first set of real leaves. Adorable.

In other garden news, I planted the other half of my garlic (which, as you may recall is a bit of an experiment in fall vs. spring planted garlic), some carrots (yeah, it might be too early) and some arugula. The last 2 are in large pots. We'll see how they do. I'm such a control freak when it comes to seed starting; I want to control the water and sunlight and exposure to critters, damn it!

Direct sowing is a bit more of a leap of faith than starting seeds inside, I think.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Garden Clean Up Day

In the past week this:

and this:Tulips? Daffodils? I don't remember planting anything there...

have popped up in my yard. That, combined with almost 60*F (balmy!) temperatures today I deemed today Garden Clean Up Day. We had put leaves all over our raised beds in part out of laziness last fall and in part to act as a mulch. And, I didn't harvest all of the mustard, radishes & a few other things before the winter thanks to no light when got home and a hectic schedule. But, for planting (which will now not be until the end of May or so thanks to home repairs), that stuff needed to go. Now. The urgency was due to it being a beautiful day after a long, snowy winter and to the knowledge that in 2 more months I'll be even MORE pregnant which just makes lifting things & stooping over hard.

We also purchased more potting mix for the containers that will need to hold our herbs and early spring veg (carrots, turnips, arugula, kale, kohlrabi and swiss chard), again thanks to the construction. And, we purchased 2 bags of compost for the larger raised beds that I went ahead & spread around to make things easier for when I'm 7 months pregnant. Now, we do have compost bins but I realized mid-winter that the well-intentioned husband had been adding new veg waste to the pile that was "sitting" to decompose. In theory, I could use a screen and sort out the finished compost from the unfinished, but I'm pulling the pregnancy card. No worries, however: that compost won't go to waste as it'll probably be ready to use in the summer just when my tomatoes need a bit of extra feeding and I'll be prepping some new beds.

Thus far, I can report that the garlic has popped up nicely. I only planted half of what I bought. I'm going to plant the other half now as a bit of an experiment. I've read that a spring-planted crop of garlic isn't as big as a fall one, but I wanted to try it out.

And, surprise!, the mint and lemon balm (also part of the mint family) are still alive. Yes, even after near zero temperatures and feet of snow. I needed to dig up the mint (those pots are going to be used other herbs), so I took cuttings and am rooting them as I've done before. I was kind of hoping the lemon balm would die, to be honest...

Anyways, with this weekend's purchases:

$12 in potting mix
$11 in compost (2 bags)

the grand total on the garden spent so far is...

I'm in awe. I mean, yes, this garden *could* be cheaper (like, I could have screened that compost & saved myself $11...if I had a spare screen), but not much. But I think it's all well-worth it. It was so much fun going outside today and getting dirty again. Plus, my garden is sometimes the only light at the end of the tunnel in winter; the daydreaming of what to plant where is my favorite way to improve the winter doldrums.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Someone Call the Waaaaaahhhh-mbulance.

The good news is that some much needed home improvements and repairs will get underway in approximately 3 weeks. The bad news is that I'll need to move the herb garden & refrain from planting the other beds until it's all over.


I'm incredibly disappointed. This year I actually came up with a plan for spring vegetables & now I can't use it. Plus, I've already started some seeds for it! I guess I'll just need to buy some pots to grow what I was planning and put those in the front yard (the only other place that gets any sun).

I suppose this does solve my squirrel problem, though, as they don't seem to like pots as much as they like my beds. It will mean no raspberry planting this year (the pots are going where they would go) and fewer plants in general. I'll cover the raised beds with tarps most likely so that any nastiness (paint chips, concrete, whatever) doesn't get into my soil.

I guess it was very auspicious that I purchased Grow Great Grub, though. I'll be using a lot of her container gardening tips this spring!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Virginians: Save Our Extension Office!

This morning started like any other. Breakfast, coffee, checking email & glancing through blog posts. Then, I came across Garden Rant...specifically Susan Harris' post on the possible elimination of the VA extension office due to budget cuts.

As Susan puts it:
"WHERE'S THE FIRE? Cooperative Extension JOBS would be ELIMINATED in Fairfax and Northern Virginia. Master Gardener programs, 4-H, nutrition to low income families, financial literacy and JOBS would be eliminated. " (you can read more at the link above)


I've personally been helped numerous times by the NoVA Master Gardeners at farmer's markets and hoped one day to become one of them. They, and the extension office, provide valuable services to the community. Please take a moment to email your representative. It's as easy as 3 steps.

Step 1: Go to this site & find your state representatives-

Step 2: Click the "Send a Message" button (or get out some paper & pen, old school style)

Step 3: Write your message (suggested text is in the Garden Rant Post)