Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Signs of spring

I've been so distracted by other concerns that I've neglected my garden lately. 

We've enjoyed summer green beans (from the chest freezer), roasted tomatoes, too, and even roasted peaches (turned into freezer jam).

A lovely excursion with middle-school students into the Garden (where I work) found us listening to early bird calls and noticing all the early-flowering Asian plants.

Hmm, it looks like another warm winter/early spring -- but, predictions are for much lower temperatures over the weekend. 

So we'll see.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Leeks fresh from the garden

freshly harvested leeks

I've left an assortment of leeks tucked in raised beds in the mountains through winter. They're so attractive, with their gray-green tops, and hardy, too. But I was noticing that a couple were getting REALLY big (hmm, about grocery store size, actually), and I was thinking that maybe they'd start forming flower buds sometime soon, if I didn't harvest them.

So I was delighted to see that they're in perfect shape (apparently) for eating.

Leeks are a relatively new vegetable for me to both grow and eat - I've just been growing them for the last 3 or four years. French leeks 'Primor' from Renee's Seeds (perfect as small, succulent "baby" leeks) have been amazing, roasted in a bit of olive oil. Yum.

I'm not sure what variety these leeks were -- I'll have to poke through some old posts, perhaps, to see if I can figure that out -- probably King Richard or one of the other standard varieties. I'm remembering that I have grew them from seed in flats started in cold frames early last spring, then transplanting them. Maybe they were 'Primor' actually -- I had harvested most of the leeks by late fall, to enjoy while still smaller.

These are certainly impressive to me as first "big" leeks!


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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cilantro & Carolina jessamine

Amazing to harvest fresh cilantro in mid-January for our black bean chili - tonight's dinner.  Normally it would have long have been frozen out by now.

And, I noticed the first Carolina jessamine flowers outside my study window, too.  Not to mention the crocuses that have popped up over the last few days, too.

Hmm, can spring really be on the way?  It's sort of feeling like that, as I'm weeding out the chickweed and henbit from my containers, and am faced with an explosion of winter annuals out in the garden!

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Sunday, January 13, 2013


My arugula patches have sailed through the winter, so far, both here in the Piedmont and in the mountains. Of course, the winter has been mild! (It was 70° F this afternoon - peculiar).

I had the idea that arugula's frost tolerance was more like "normal" lettuce (not Winter Density or North Pole or Arctic King), and so it's been a revelation to have these flourishing patches -- happily, it's the one "green" (along with cilantro) that deer haven't eaten in the satellite garden (in the Piedmont). 

It's a bit discouraging to think I'll need to fence/protect/defend my less 'spicy' greens from deer, if I want to grow them. Kale, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, collards, etc. have all disappeared as deer forage over the last few cool-weather seasons.  Even French sorrel -- yikes.

Happily, in the mountains, my raised beds are in front of the house, and I don't think we have deer (yet), and only very brave woodchucks venture that far out of the woodland ravine behind the house (in dry summers, primarily).

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Warm weather

It's been warm this week - unseasonably so.  And the weekend ahead is downright balmy for January.  I've been sitting on my hands in terms of vegetable garden planting, but I've been ordering seeds, woo-hoo!)

This weekend, I'm planning to free the woodland perennials of their winter overcoat of leaves (not necessarily a good thing when they're water oak), cut back the main perennial border, and get the satellite garden and main vegetable garden ready for early planting (I've already put in garlic, onion sets are on their way, and I've got perennial leeks to move around, as well).

No sign of deer lately, but I'm totally mindful that they could appear at any time and yum up anything that's not too herbal or spicy (hmm, I won't be planting lettuce or mild cole crops without some sort of barrier here in the Piedmont, that's for sure).

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Creasy greens

We had our first creasy greens (upland cress: Barbarea verna) today, a totally delicious green that's a winter and spring tradition in Appalachia. I bought the seeds from Sow True Seeds, a local Western North Carolina seed company, in Asheville, as a bit of a novelty.

A good friend of mine who grew up eating 'creasy greens' had primed my awareness of them, and I thought I'd give them a try.

The plants form low rosettes, and I'd kind of ignored the small patch through the fall (the hakurei turnips were MUCH larger and more robust as was all the arugula and kale - and both were easier to harvest), but being back in the mountains after winter break had me noticing how nice the leaves of the creasy greens looked (in spite of some hard freezes in the meantime).  They were glossy and green without any sign of frost damage.

Collecting a nice bunch of them to quickly stir-fry to have along with our breakfast omelet, I discovered that raw, they're quite peppery, but cooked -- yum!  They're totally delicious, with a texture of a tender kale, and very tasty.

Hmm, I'll be growing a lot more of these in the future (as winter crops, for sure!)

Here's a photo from another seed source, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Organizing plants

A call on the radio program today had me thinking.  We don't always edit our plantings enough. The caller was worrying about her view from her home office (it sounded pretty jumbled up).

Taking a clear view, printing out photos (b&w), thinking about what you actually SEE -- all are so helpful for transforming views in our landscapes.

It's not always about adding more plants, but editing them out, to be sure.

Isn't gardening fun?


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Even more seeds...

Hmm, I'm on a roll, even as the weather turned grey and rainy today.  I ordered more seeds this morning (unusual ones), along with some gratis ones from Renee's Seeds (I'd just placed a paid order yesterday, so I'm not feeling too guilty about accepting the media freebies).  They're (Renee's, that is) are the best!  I love her seed choices.

I'm itching to start seeds under lights and on a heating pad out in my garden shed, even though I KNOW it's way too early. I'll just content myself by cleaning up and tidying beds (from lots of winter annuals), until I can plant snow peas and sugar snap peas later this month (depending on soil temps).  But then I'll start some cool-season veggies for transplant!  I do need to barricade my Piedmont garden against deer, however -- they're probably still out there, waiting for the nice gardener to offer up something tasty.

It's been quite mild so far this winter, at least in the Piedmont, so I should be able to coax some hardy lettuce and spinach seeds to germinate with a bit of warmth first, before setting them out.  First, however, I'll be transplanting leek "babies" from my perennial leeks, which have produced lots of small offsets ready to move to new spots.

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