In February, my mind turns to the garden and Spring. There is a shift that happens, a changing of the light, and my brain responds to the cue: get out the garden books, order your seeds, make (possibly extravagant) plans. And even when brief spring-like moments are replaced with very wintry storms I still know that Spring is on its way.
I’ve been plotting the veggie garden rotation, and making a calendar of when and how to start seeds. The rotation thing always seems a bit complicated to me. It shouldn’t be, and in the books it looks easy – just move each crop from bed to bed – but in reality, or in *our* reality, it stumps me a bit. Probably because I always want to grow more of a certain kind of vegetable and so you can’t just do an even rotation. It’s more complicated. Fortunately, of course, the main thing is to keep things moving, and whether or not it all follows the strict recommendations is probably not the end of the world. Also, I’m making it sounds as if we are perfectionist gardeners or something, when really, if we manage to get things in and maybe even do a bit of weeding this year, it will be an accomplishment.
On a stormy day I sometimes cover the coffee table with brown paper and set Little R up with crayons and pencils. I like the large-scale aspect, and of course the location near the stove. Inevitably I end up there too, maybe trying to get something productive done or maybe just drawing by the fire. Yesterday I was trying to plot the vegetable garden and took the opportunity to sketch out a plan on the table. I filled in the beds with crayons drawings of the veg as Little R hovered over me. No sooner was the garden complete than all Little R’s farm animals moved in to snack. Cheeky critters! (But that reminds me, we’ve got to fence the chickens out of our plot this year.)
I love creating meals from the garden. It gives me such pleasure to survey what is growing, and then decide how I can use it in a meal. I generally like cooking anyway, but we all have our days when it seems slightly depressing that ANOTHER meal needs making. Fortunately, using garden produce excites me enough, and becomes enough of a “creative” act to snap me out of that.
Last night I made a quick pizza. I used the garlic scape pesto as a sauce. I then featured the first tiny yellow zucchini and some zucchini flowers. I must say, I had a very brief moment of hesitation before I picked all the little growing zucchini. But it was oh so brief, because I know that in a month we will be unable to cope with ALL THE ZUCCHINI.
I tossed on some onion and some shredded swiss chard. The swiss chard is doing marvellously, as it seems the leaf miners are not at all an issue later in the season. So we find ourselves with an abundance of chard and I’m always trying to shoe-horn it in to meals. Bit of feta, bit of old cheddar. And just when the pizza came out of the oven I laid on some basil leaves.
Satisfying to make, and satisfying to eat!
I fully intended to share a post about the results of the cold-frame, and our first harvest (which was ages ago!), but what with one thing and another (and then another) I never got around to it. But a few days ago I snapped some photos of a basket full of greens I was picking for lunch. We’ve been eating salads daily. They are made up of mesclun, baby swiss chard, kale thinning, radishes, wild sorrel and, of course, chives. We have an accidental red cabbage plant left over from last year that is flowering, so I’ve also been tossing in the purple buds, which make a nice touch.
I’ve been seeing the value of successive planting and am trying to keep up with that so that when one row of mesclun/lettuce gets old I’ve got another just coming into its prime. Which reminds me, I should sow another row today!
The cold frames were great, though they have not be necessary for quite some time. I used them mainly for the greens I mention above, though I also started some kale plants which have now been planted out.
The rest of the garden is planted and I’m looking forward to the coming season.
Filed under food, gardening
We built a cold-frame a few days ago. I spent a morning hauling around scraps of rotten wood and then G took pity on me and suggested we go buy wood to build the frame. We were able to use an old window for the light, so at least there was some saving there. Incidentally, the cost of wood is something I’m still trying to get used to. Growing up in a house where there was always wood in the basement, I’m always disappointed when building something myself still requires me to pay for supplies. (Another side effect of having a father who could build anything is that despite having practically NO carpentry skills, I’m always convinced I can build things….) But no matter, we bought some wood and put together a frame. And dug a hole. And planted some seeds. Lettuce, swiss chard and carrots. For reasons I won’t get into, we have an extra outdoor thermometer and indoor sensor which is proving very useful for monitoring the temperature inside the cold-frame.
The finished cold-frame.
Little R helping.
The cold-frame in situ.
And now we eagerly wait to see if we manage to coax the seeds to grow and enjoy an early spring in a box.
Filed under food, gardening
I think it is fair to say that the theme of today’s post should be “neglect”. First, the poor blog has been neglected, for various good, and not so good reasons, that I won’t get into (excuses, excuses). Next, the “allotment”….remember that?? Well, that was certainly neglected. Ditto for the reasons. Fortunately most of what was in there was quite happy to forge on alone. (Though it must be mentioned that I know we lost some nice cauliflower for want of love and attention.) Today I was thinking of it, guiltily, and thought I should venture over to see if anything was salvageable. It’s raining, which seems fitting, for penance.
When we got there we found that the red cabbage had done quite well, and so we have three big heads to do something with. The leeks, though still thin, are definitely usable. I dug some but left some in the ground for later. I tried to take a picture of our takings but everything is so wet that a peek inside the produce bag will have to do. I don’t have recipes in mind for the cabbage, but I’m sure a leek and potato soup is in order for tomorrow.
During the summer at Good Cheer I started a little herb garden in front of the house. I have big plans that involve several beds of flowers and herbs, and a rock wall, to provide some interest to the front of the house (and for use in cooking, of course). I began by digging a “deep bed” which is unbelievably hard work. Especially as I chose some hot summer days to do it. I transplanted some chives and rooted a bit of sage I found elsewhere on the property. The sage was tricky as this should really be done in the spring and as the cutting has next to no roots it is hard for it to survive hot weather, especially when I’m away for a week at a time and unable to water it. Only one of my three survived.
I also stuck in some sorrel, which grows all over the lawn, just to fill up a bit of space. My aunt and uncle kindly brought a few more herbs over so now I’ve got Lemon Balm, Thyme, Golden Oregano and Chamomile! At first I was a little worried that my planting should be more organized but….life is long, so I’ll just bung things in where there is space. With a sprinkling of flowers it should look charmingly rustic, if nothing else!
My honeysuckle is entering the third year of its life and, for the first time, is really and truly happy! For its first two years it had aphids, and was just generally displeased both with them and with our attempts to get rid of them. But this year it is going strong – I guess it just takes a bit of patience.
Today we nipped over to Halifax Seed and bought some veggies to plant in the allotment. I must confess I had plans to start more things myself this year but I got distracted, and there wasn’t space and so on. So we will just put that behind us. The things I DID start, my leeks, are sulking and have not done anything since I planted them out, which isn’t promising. I’ve decided to give them a little longer and then I may grub them up and plant lettuce or something. The peas are coming along fine and we got them staked up, so they look a little less chaotic.
Today we planted: tomatoes, small squash, cucumbers, broccoli, red cabbage, cauliflower and a bit of dill. I’ve still got a little space to plant some beans. Last year I grew many brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, several kinds of cabbage and kohlrabi. It is wise not to grow brassicas where others grew the year before, so I had a bit of a challenge organizing and finding space for everything. My cabbages last year were not a great success. They grew well but were plagued with various pests and in the end very little was edible. I was going to forgo cabbage completely seeing as it is so cheap to buy, and also with the logic that anything that has to sit in the garden all season is more likely to get eaten or infested by somebody than things I can harvest in a “cut and come again” fashion. But in the end I thought I’d try some red cabbage, and see if I can get on top of the pests.
It’s that time of year again! My lettuce and leeks are out “hardening off” (although with this weather they aren’t getting very hard) and I’ve just come back from the doing some digging at the allotment.
Here’s to Spring as an inspiration to “dig in”!
Today I planted the first seeds of spring! In my little pots I started lettuce, swiss chard and spinach. I also made some larger pots out of newspaper for my leeks. My pots are not as sturdy as the pots in the demo because I didn’t have as much newspaper so we will see how they do. If they don’t completely fall apart then they might actually be better as they will decompose faster in the soil. I spoke with an employee at Halifax Seed and asked about sticking the whole pot in the ground with the plants and she said it should really be fine. If I’m worried I can cut down the sides.
I’m trying a technique I read in Four Season Harvest called multiplants. Apparently some crops such as onions leeks and others do fine if you plant several together. You don’t thin them, but plant them on exactly as they germinate, but just give the bunch more space. Supposedly they just gently push each other aside as they grow. I’ve never grown leeks before so I’ll have nothing to compare it to, but I thought I’d have a go.
So everything is now tucked cosily under the plant light. And in case you were wondering what ever happened to the indoor lettuce I was growing, I can tell you that it did work, but we figured it wasn’t really worth it. It was too tricky to set it up where the lettuce had both lots of natural light and the plant light to get things growing quickly, and it just seemed silly to be running the plant light for just a little lettuce. But it was fun anyway, and we had too meals nicely decorated with homegrown greens. Oh, just makes me look forward to summer even more!