A Noble SFG Kitchen Garden

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Act of Faith

Another March weekend began without rain! This was a colder weekend than last, but Saturday was very sunny and dry, and I did have more pea seeds to plant, so I braved the cool temperatures and spent the afternoon cleaning out 2 more boxes. Again, I had help. Bill came out and re-strung the string on the second pea pole, and Shelby came out and laid wherever I was trying to dig. While I strive to aerate the soil, he works at compacting it. He' s not quite the gardener that Jackson was, but he does try! We managed to get 2 more beds cleaned out and re-enforced with leaf mold compost and manure compost. I finished planting the remaining spinach in the first box, which I hope will give me spinach from the end of April until the end of May. I also planted the second half of the Sugar Snap peas in the second box. Around the second planting of peas, I planted 2 varieties of Mesclun - Sweet Salad Mix and Early mix. I should be able to start harvesting some salad greens by the end of April. Finally, because I was able to clear the third box on Saturday, I planted the Sugar Bon Snap peas on Sunday. These are bush peas, growing only to about 18-24 inches so I planted them thickly so they would support themselves as they grow. As I was cleaning up and preparing to come inside this morning, it occurred to me that this was really an act of faith. I mean, it was SO COLD this morning, and damp - so much rain in the air - this can't possibly be the appropriate time to plant anything. And none of the seeds I planted last week have even peeked their little heads up yet...clearly it is just too cold....and yet, I still planted all my spring seeds. Yep, an act of faith!

I love the early spring. Although most of the landscape still looks brown and dead, and the temperatures can still be so very cold, there are signs that yet another spring is just around the corner. Each year, the Bleeding Hearts come back bigger and bigger. These guys were planted within the first year or 2 that we lived here, and they have been moved all around the yard, but every season, without fail, they show up.

Another of my favorite early spring surprises are the Helebores. This year, I was worried that the heavy winter snows had been too much for them. They usually begin to bloom in February, and this year, when I went to look for them, there was no sign of life. But here we are in March and suddenly, they are back and in full bloom.

An act of faith...maybe it is time to have planted the peas!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

And She Tries Again!!

Saturday was the first day of spring, and what better way to celebrate it than...well, actually, I celebrated it by going into the city for a bourbon tasting. But Sunday is the second day of spring, and what better way to celebrate it than planting 2 rows of spinach and half a package of sugar snap peas.

One of my goals for this year was to get the garden started earlier than usual so that I might actually have 3 seasons of harvests. Years ago, when I first came upon the book, Crockett's Victory Garden, I was inspired by Jim Crockett's description of going out into the garden on a cold, damp March day and planting peas. Most years, I plant Sugar Snap peas, rather than the English peas he planted, but I always wanted to find myself doing it in March. And it always seemed to be at least April before I managed to do it. One reason for this is my inability to 'put the garden to bed for the winter'. By the end of every growing season, the garden is full of wild, out-of-control tomato plants, and leggy squash plants and weeds. It's not that I don't know what to do. I am aware that sometime in September or early October, I should go out there, pull off all tomatoes even though they are green, and pull up the plants. And I LIKE green tomatoes, so it should not be a problem. But it always seems that if I just leave them a little longer, I will have just a few more tasty red tomatoes. That never happens.

This year was no different, I never put the garden to bed for the winter. What was different, though, is that this year, on the second day of spring, I went outside and pulled up all the dead plants and weeds in just one growing box. And I had help. Bill came out and pulled and dug, and Shelby came out and dug and rolled. In about 2 hours, we had cleaned out one box, and cut down all the nasty, thorny bushes that were trying to grow, and that, by late April and early May, would begin to shade the garden and become unruly. Then we drove down to Home Depot and bought 4 bags of compost to enrich and replace some of the soil. And, because of the miracle of Daylight's Savings, it was still light so I planted half a bag of Sugar Snap Peas that may be ready to pick by the last couple of days of May. Not only will I have snap peas sooner that usual, but this means I will be able to harvest them, pull up the spent bean plants, and actually put in tomato seedlings or maybe the cute little Ronde de Nice heirloom zucchini squashes. It also means I have time to put in another planting of peas next weekend so that the harvest is staggered. Of course, if my sister gets wind of this, I won't need a staggered harvest.

I also planted 2 rows of spinach. The spinach benefits from an early planting. Often, because I plant it later in the spring, I am only able to harvest for a short time and then the weather gets too hot and it bolts. These 2 rows should be ready to harvest for baby spinach for salads by the end of April, giving me a month and a half for harvest.

The weather for the beginning of the coming week is rainy and cool, perfect for the newly planted seeds. Hopefully, there will be some dry days in the middle of the week so I can prep another box. But for now, I am happy, I finally got the season started in March!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Where's the Spring

Is it really May?? Then why am I bundled up in sweats and sweaters!!

This week has been quite cool most days and only a little rainy. I had just a bit over a half an inch of rain in the garden, most of it soft and soaking. During one thunderstorm, however, the rain was hard enough to unearth many of the newly planted peas so they had to be replanted. But, in general, the weather has been nice and cool for the lettuces, spinach and peas, and everything has responded.

Last week, when cleaning out the garden, one of the 'surprises' I found was this little lettuce plant from last year. It was doing very well...until Shelby decided that the most comfortable place to sit in all the garden was right there! Funny that it could survive the whole winter, amidst the weeds and frost and cold, but maybe not survive one very old lab.

Fortunately, it has survived! At least so far!

Early in May, I had gotten several San Marzano tomato seedlings and a couple of tomatillo seedlings at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. I really didn't plan to set them outside until early June, but they have been growing rapidly - too rapidly - so I decided to set them out this weekend, even though I am afraid it is a little too cool for them.

Even the tomatillo went outside.

So, naturally, now that they are planted outside, there were frost predictions for last night!! I'm sure the bunnies were wondering what was going on with the tent in the garden, but at least these old sheets would keep the frost off the plants. As it turned out, it never got quite as cold as was predicted.

This morning, I found these water teepee's that I had purchased years ago, when I got the idea to start my tomatoes much earlier in the garden (of course, I never did, so they were still new in the package!). These plastic sleeves are filled with water, so they will soak up the heat from the sun during the day and release it to keep the plants warm at night. It should help to regulate the temperatures for the tomatoes, while the peas, spinach and lettuces enjoy the cooler weather.
I have never used these before so it will be interesting to see how the tomatoes and tomatillos like them. Maybe I will get some early salsa! And, hopefully, it won't matter that it seems more like April than May.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garden 2009 Kick Off!

Here's a riddle:

What do you get when you add 2 full weeks of rain to a couple of warm, spring days?


It is hard to believe that the end of March, this was totally cleared out. But as the weather began to warm in April, the rains came. It rained for almost 2 weeks straight. Then, a few weekends out of town made it impossible to have any gardening time, so the weeds were left to go wild. And go wild they did!!! This past weekend - Mother's Day - became my Start The Garden weekend. It was cool and, finally, dry!

Did I mention that it had rained a lot?? I actually had to clear my way to the rain gauge with my weedwacker, just to be shocked to discover that we had gotten 4 inches of rain in April, most of that in consecutive days.

Obviously, the first order of business was to find the garden under all those weeds. As bad as it looked, I knew from past experience that much of it would come up easily. I also knew, from past experience, that there were undoubtedly surprises hiding among the weeds. One of those surprises was a big clump of oregano!!

I had gotten 2 small seedlings in my CSA boxes last year, and planted them in one of the empty spots about mid season. They did nothing. They didn't die, they didn't grow, and there was never enough for me to use them in any cooking. So they quietly sat in the corner of the garden, taking up space. Clearing out the box this year, I found that the 2 little seedlings had grown large and bushy. I certainly have enough to use in cooking now!! And I am thinking about putting some in my dehydrator to make my own dried oregano.

And at the end of the day, there was......
....a garden!!! It is not totally cleared out, but the tomato box is ready - whenever it gets warm enough to plant them. And 2 other boxes were readied and planted. I planted Sugar Snap Peas, as they are always a favorite, and new for this year, Lincoln Shelling Peas, an heirloom variety. I also planted a variety of lettuces: Edox Butterhead, Bibb, Forellenschluss Romaine, Santoro, and Mesclun. And, of course, another favorite...spinach. I am hoping for a cool spring.
I also got some lavender this weekend. This is not planned for the garden, but will instead go on the steep part of the hill where the tractor can't cut. If I can get it to take hold, it will be lovely to have lavender line the driveway, not to mention......sachets?? Ice Cream???

And because it wouldn't be spring without some flowers......
Let the garden begin!!! Happy spring!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Starting Again

Last year was an interesting year in the garden. There were several ‘firsts’…first time planting a Square Foot Garden, first time keeping a blog, first time limiting what I planted to a reasonable amount. The garden was actually a resounding success. Not once during the year did I lose control of it. Some crops didn’t perform as I had hoped, but that is to be expected in a garden. The amazing thing was that it never turned into a raging jungle, and that was another first!

The blog, however, did not fair so well. Oh, I took plenty of pictures of the garden as it progressed, and had the best of intentions, but I think sitting in front of a computer all day makes me less inclined to sit in front of a computer during my leisure time. But I am ever the optimist, and I am going to try again this year.

Today, I planted the first of the seedlings. Yes…today…March 31. The latest I have ever planted my seedlings. Usually, I plant them much too early and they become tall and gangly before I can get them outside. Maybe a little late is better than much too early.

So, what did I plant? My tomatoes this year are San Marzano tomatoes. I’m sure they will not be quite as sweet as the canned ones I buy since I doubt that Lucketts has the same sunny, Mediterranean climate that Italy has, but they are a lovely, meaty tomato, great for sauces. And…I suspect…great for drying in my new dehydrator! I’m thinking dried tomatoes packed in oil! Yum!!

I also started some lettuce inside – Santoro Butterhead Lettuce, Edox Butterhead Lettuce, and an heirloom variety of Romaine called Forellenschluss. Again, starting small…worked so well for me last year.

Until the garden begins to pick up speed with more planting – I have peas to put out as soon as the rain stops and the ground dries a bit – I am going to use this early spring to review last years garden and post some of the pictures.

Last year, there was quite a bit of 'animal nibbling' that went on. In fact, I returned from a business trip to find all the beet plants eaten right to the ground and half the carrot tops gone. A trip down to the local antique store to snag this gate solved the problem for the summer. Unfortunately, during the fall, I found the deer had decided to go for it and jump the fence so this year, I will need to come up with another plan.

It was also a great year for basil. Of course, I did buy many more plants than might normally be needed. This is one plant that doesn't have to follow the rule of keeping it small and controllable....you can never have too much basil!

Friday, June 13, 2008


For the last 2 weeks, I have been puzzling over what appear to be footprints in my garden. Not anything I can identify, just a random indent in the soil. I noticed the first one in my carrots, where it appeared that something had stepped onto one of the very small, very delicate carrots. Just one indent, just one footprint. It couldn't be a rabbit. I thought perhaps a cat, just walking through, but why just a single footprint?

This morning, when the boys and I took our first stroll out to the garden, as I headed across the yard (imagine dramatic, suspenseful music here), I spied a deer (music swells), walking casually by the garden...just passing through. Hmmm, not a good sign. And when I got to the garden, this is what I found:

One of my eggplant seedlings, suddenly almost leafless!! It might be time to put a door on the fence that goes around the garden.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hot, hot, hot!

This weekend was blistering hot!! Lots of storms during the week, some were pretty destructive, and then the 100° temperatures and Washington humidity hit. So what to do on a hot, hot day? Well, since there was one last box to plant, and a new pile of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost calling to me, the thing to do was mix some more Mel’s mix and plant the final box. So that’s what I did….and boy, was it hot!

This one has my eggplant seedlings, cilantro from the farmers market, and kale. In the other boxes, I was also able to plant some additional basil and cilantro seedlings which came in my CSA box. You can never have too much basil or cilantro!

Just 2 weeks ago, I planted the baby corn and beans. It’s amazing just how fast they sprouted, and now they are growing like crazy.

These little guys certainly will be “knee high by the fourth of July”, as the saying goes. Of course, that may be as big as they get! Right now, they seem to be about the same size as the beans.

And, finally a little harvest. Some radishes!! Look at these little beauties!!

My original plan for this blog was to also share the recipes that I use to prepare the harvest, and I did think about how I could prepare these little guys. I actually found a recipe for a radish sandwich. In the end, though, I decided to just wash them, sprinkle them with a little course salt, and eat them!