Monday, April 24, 2017

A mockingbird sings

In the waning evening light, I was checking the veggies out front.  Hmm, a bit of slug damage there, no cabbage white caterpillars, maybe I'll get a few small broccoli heads, and what am I going to do with the huge red cabbage plants (with very tiny heads).

All the while a mockingbird was singing loudly in a tree across the street.  I'm here, he's saying.  This is my territory.

And, for the moment, things are fine in the garden.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Another harvest (leeks and chard)

Chard and leeks
A small vegetable garden is capable of producing a lot of veggies (what else is new?)

I've really enjoyed the spring leeks and chard and am closing in on the last of the kale (red Russian kale salad with a citrus dressing was part of dinner tonight, as were roasted leeks.). Have I mentioned that I'm a bit tired of greens?

Recent rains have pumped up leaf growth in the spring-planted chard, collards, lettuce, and broccoli, and cool weather is keeping them in good condition.  Hmm.  I've picked off some cabbage white caterpillars from the collards unprotected by the wire cloches, and slugs have made inroads, too, but...I guess I'm still wanting to have more greens?

I'll be planting pole beans, tomatoes, and squash soon, juggling plantings for harvests when we're here this summer, even though we'll have home exchange folks here for the times we're gone and the neighbors were glad to harvest last summer, too.

The sugar snap peas are only about 4 inches high, so they don't look promising this year.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Science, Earth Day, and gardening

Connemara, Ireland
I'm a scientist by background and have been a science educator (from college, to youngsters, back to adults) throughout my career, and now in my post-work life, I've continued that.

Although it was buoying, I found it quite depressing that I needed to "March for Science" on Earth Day in 2017.

I'm old enough to remember the first Earth Day in 1970 (I was fifteen).

The environment (at least in the US) really needed help then, not from climate change but from pollution of air and water, which was significant.  I did a 5th grade piece in class about how a young boy had died from typhoid, because he ate some watermelon that had been in the Hudson River.  And I remember the choking air as a 7th grader, visiting NYC in the summer, when my dad was on sabbatical in upstate NY. And the uranium mine that I visited in a class as a sophomore in college was alarming (this was in a class taught by one of LBJ's former
environmental folks, and then a retired president of UT Austin):  it was a good class, and he advised me to follow my interests in graduate school, which I did.

So, as I listened to the young organic farmer rail against the evils of glyphosate and Monsanto, I couldn't help think about the MUCH worse pesticides that we used to use. And the much worst pollution that we used to have.  DDT? 2-4D? And there are plenty of their offspring that are worse than glyphosate, in my opinion as a scientist, who's tried to do due diligence as a gardener and natural history/garden educator.

Science, not silence, one of the signs said.

We spoke out as scientists (and conservationists, and environmentalists, etc.) starting a long time ago.  Perhaps this is a continuation of that.

A high school senior was the organizer for the March for Science in Asheville. How cool is that?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

An updated vegetable garden

I was a bit bemused this afternoon to be "editing" my veggie beds. 

garden in front of house (late April 2017)
They're in front of the house, so we look at them every day.  Today, I was thinking it was a bit out of balance, even as I harvest Red Russian kale, perennial leeks, assorted lettuces, etc.  And the rosemaries in the corner of the front bed were looking downright scruffy.

 So they've been uprooted and replaced with new, smaller versions (with the uprooted ones to give away this weekend (or sell for $1) at my garden club's plant sale on Sunday.

And it was remarkable to see how simply editing some of the leeks and kale (for dinner tonight) shaped the look of the beds.  I was pleased.

late April raised beds

Toward our "blue house" neighbors
And the front & side garden is looking good, too, towards our neighbors.  In an urban landscape, it's all about creating shared view scapes!







Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Perennial leeks

Ancestral leek, Allium ampeloprasum, is a common and highly variable wild species native to Southern Europe, according to Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, in their book, Vegetables (Random House). Variants were found in Western Europe, too -- in Ireland and England, often associated with early Christian sites.

They write that numerous varieties of leeks are now grown, differing mainly in the color of their leaves, hardiness, and tendency to form bulbils at their base.

I've been growing (and sharing) perennial leeks for some years now, obtained through Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  I've been writing about them for a number of years, too.

They're really wonderful and productive.  Eaten as young leeks, they're delicious from bottom to top; as a bit older leek, they're still great for the tender parts, with tops for soup.

And productive -- well, each leek that I have now (which I didn't separate in fall) is a huge clump of young leeks, surrounding the original one. The ones I did separate and replant look like these (from last year's harvest).


I'm planning to share a number of clumps in my garden club sale this Sunday;  they're winners and productive in my garden.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A first monarch sighting

I saw a monarch flying past the porch yesterday at lunch time. That's a monarch, I said, somewhat startled, as it's unusual to see them here in the mountains in spring.

And I was even more delighted to read a post from my neighbor, Phyllis Stiles, founder of Bee City USA, this afternoon about a female monarch oviposting on her young milkweed shoots.

http://www.beecityusa.org/blog-and-news/my-very-first-monarch-egg

That must have been the monarch that I saw!
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