Category Archives: gardening

Garden Friday: Onions

I ordered onion sets this year for the first time.  The regional catalog said they would send them out at the optimal planting time… which is apparently my 2nd child’s day of birth.  So needless to say, I’ve missed the 3-week window of planting the 300+ sets as advised.  But I put them in the cold basement for a month and am now hoping for the best as I try to make progress in getting the bed ready during non-rainy naps.

Anyways, my question to you is do you plant onions?  From seed, set or what?  And what is your optimal spacing/layout in a backyard garden?

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Garden Friday – A Child’s Flower Garden

Spring really is here!  And it is one wet week in the PNW.

I know I usually make this space about veggies, but I have to share something special we did in our family this week.  It is spring break here and I’ve been trying to make sure I do something special with my eldest (he is a verbal 4.5 years old) each day as we transition into a family of 4.  He came home the other day from a bike-ride with his father chattering non-stop about the flowers.  Spring around here means that many houses are lined with beautiful bulbs and other perennials right now.  Apparently, while riding (in the street – because we arethat biking family), a conversation went something like this:

Child: Look at those <insert various colors> flowers in that yard!

Father: yes, they are beautiful

Child: I have an idea!  We can ride on the sidewalk today so that I can stop and smell all the flowers.

Father:  Alright.  Let’s do it.

…..

Child:  Papa, we need beautiful flowers at our house.

Father:  That is your mother’s domain.  Ask her when you get home.

 

So, when they got home, the kid was chattering about flowers and needing to plant some in our yard.  I said, great – just you and me – let’s go on Wednesday to pick some out.

And we did just that.  I took him to the locally owned nursery.  He picked the wagon, he pulled the wagon, he picked out the type of  flowers and chose the actual plants.  Luckily, I had the foresight to set an agreed amount of plants BEFORE we entered because my kid apparently has expensive tastes; he was instantly enamored with the perennials – hyacinths, daffadils, Iberis, Woodland Phlox, and Corydalis.  Who can blame him?  The hyacinths do look and smell lovely.  But he stuck to his 6 pots without complaint.  We came home, he picked the spot he wanted them to go.  (Well, actually, he wanted them against the fence line in the back yard – I talked him into doing back and front yard, helping him split the plants in order to do so.)  He picked the planting arrangement.

Now I have these cute little plants in a corner of my overgrown yard that desperately needs work.  It isn’t what I would have chosen or how I would have laid them out; I’ll probably have to move the hyacinths after this season because they are sitting north of a small fence.  But the kid is sooo excited to check on them everyday.  And every spring I’ll be reminded of my 4-year-old who wanted to stop and smell/plant the flowers.

Have your small children helped shape your garden?

Garden Friday – The first of the starts

This week, I started broccoli and boc choi starts.  I’m not sure what drove the decision: my anxiousness for spring to arrive or because I’ve been emboldened by how well my lettuce is holding up underneath a couple of panes of glass.  Either way, on Sunday afternoon, my preschooler and I sat in our sunny, south facing window and started 2 flats of a mix of broccoli and boc choi plants.  I was so impressed with the precision of his 4-year-old fingers in dropping seeds in one at a time.

The flats have been sitting in my south facing window ever since. Today I noticed them peaking through.  Once late Feburary arrives, I will like transplant them to a south facing bed that I can keep covered in plastic; by that point the frosts will be unlikely but I’ll still need warmth and protection from the sun.

Or at least that is the plan.  When do you plan on getting the spring garden started?

Garden Friday – Winter Gardens with Light Freezes

Just as I have slowed in my Garden Friday feature as the temps have dropped, so has my garden.  Yet I did plant a winter garden this year and thought I would give an update.

As a reminder, I’m in the PNW, west of the Cascades.  I planted the garden around September 15th.  I had a feeling that would be a little late, but I was on vacation for the previous 3 weeks and early September is so dry here that I didn’t see the point of planting starts that would shrivel in the late summer while I was gone.  Turns out, too late.  Vacation be damned, I need to get it in no later that Sept 1st for it to be growing enough to be harvestable through the winter months.

That said, I’ve been thrilled at how well the plants are holding up to frost and light freezes. We’ve had about 2 weeks of unseasonably DRY weather which also means unseasonably cold nights – for us.  In real terms, we’ve dropped into the high 20’s about 7 times over the past 2 weeks and you would hardly know it by looking at my winter garden bed in the afternoon.  Sure, the Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, leeks, kale, and spinach look pretty sad in the morning, but after a few hours of sun, they perk right up.  I do have my mixed greens under a pane of glass – this seems to be enough protection for them too!  Even my little Myer Lemon tree is doing ok; I should say that I did move it next to the south facing wall to give it a bit more protection.

So, all in all, it looks like the garden will survive the winter.  I think it will end up taking off in the early months of spring.  So, while planting late may have resulted in a bust for the winter garden, the leafy greens are going to taste awesome come March.

How is your winter garden coming?  Or are you just eying all those lovely seed catalogs that are coming in fast and furious right now and wishing for spring?

Garden Friday – Winter Cover Crops

In the rainy Pacific Northwest, the surest way to deplete your soil is to leave it bare during the winter.  The forest naturally provides a canopy and cover of dead leaves to slow down the rain washing away vitamins and minerals; without it, you are asking for junky soil full of lots of weeds if nothing is done.

Luckily, we can grow some veggies year around.  But, if you don’t put in a winter garden, there are basically 2 options.

The first is to cover your beds with straw and leaves to slow down the runoff.

The second is to plant cover crops that can withstand the winter.  Most winter cover crops need to be planted 4 weeks before the first hard frost to have time to establish themselves.  If this is done, they will grow until the hard frosts and begin growing again in early spring.  The exception is cereal rye which can be planted right up to a frost.  So even though I just planted the last of mine this week, you still have time along the Wasatch front.

What did I plant?  Well, legumes are popular choices because they both add organic matter AND ‘fix’ their own nitrogen from the air which results in more fertile soil, especially if you turn under the plants as green manure.  At the end of September, I planted several different snap peas; if I’m lucky, they will actually produce edible peas in a few weeks before the hard frosts and then I can turn them under in early spring.  If I’m unlucky, I won’t get any food out of it this season but will improve the soil for next.

In my raised bed that is less than a year old, I inter-planted Austrian peas (also sometimes called a field pea) and cereal rye last weekend.  Again, the Austrian Pea has the benefit of legumes fixing nitrogen; it is a hardy field pea that handles winter well.  The cereal rye is super hardy and will provide some support for the pea plants while also providing soil structure stabilization/erosion control.

One thing to keep in mind while using cover crops as green manure is that you must kill the cover crop before it matures so the crop itself doesn’t turn into a weed.  In the early spring, I’ll cut down the Austrian Pea and rye, wait a week, and then turn it under after a few days of sunshine when the soil isn’t completely waterlogged.

Do you plant cover crops in your garden?  Which ones and when?

 

Garden Friday – Eating Radishes

As I mentioned earlier, I often inter-crop radishes with carrots and parsnips.  They come up quickly and help identify the rows of the slow germinating carrots and parsnips.  The are ready to be pulled about a month after planting… just as the carrots are putting down a taproot and need the soil loosened.

I grew up with radishes – my dad loves their spice and crunch and it helped the kids not get bored with the garden – and love them as one of the many goodies in a salad.  But, surprisingly my husband – who also loves spice – isn’t that big of a fan.  So how to prepare radishes?  Especially when you literally have a hundred of them ready within a week or two?

I recently went to a potluck where they were thinly sliced with cucumber slices in a vinaigrette.  This preparation, although not foreign since I always eat my green salad with a vinaigrette, was new to me; it seemed to take some of the spicy bite out.  I googled to see if I could find a recipe – not that I follow recipes, I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a critical ingredient – only to find that you can also make soup with the usually bitter greens!  And apparently, radish greens have even more vitamin C, various B vitamins, and calcium than the already amazingly vitamin C packed (15% of your daily intake in 1/2 cup!) roots.  Who knew?  Although when I stopped and thought about how they are a mustard-cabbage family veggie, totally made sense.

So, for two meals this week I’ve made a crunchy salad out of radishes, carrots and the last of my pea pods in vinaigrette.  I plan on making a soup tonight out of the tops I’ve saved.

The basic soup with lots of variations always seems to be something like this –  saute an onion or leek and 2 potatoes in a couple of Tbl of butter or olive oil for 5 minutes.  Add 2 cups of broth (chicken) or water and 1-2 bunches of greens (this seems to be 2-4 cups of greens) and simmer for another 20 minutes.  Blend and add some sort of cream, milk, or yougurt if desired and salt & pepper to taste.

How do you prepare radishes?  Do you use their greens?  Anyone want to mess around with a soup recipe with me?

Garden Friday – Leeks

Garden Friday is a regularly scheduled feature on Our Mother’s Keeper.  Growing your own food, no matter the scale, helps both the pocketbook and the environment.  We anticipate that this space can be one that provides inspiration and answers questions regarding the planing, harvesting, and consumption of edible gardens.  Because gardening is very dependent upon your climate, please make sure you identify your general region (Wasatch Front, arid SW, Pacific NW, coastal, etc) when asking questions.

Where did the week go?  How is it Friday already?

We had a couple of hot days here in the PNW this week and I think my peas are finished.  This frees up some space and I think I’ll put my leeks in.

Read more of this post

Gardening Friday-Lettuce in July?

Garden Friday – Stakes or Cages

Garden Friday is a regularly scheduled feature on Our Mother’s Keeper.  Growing your own food, no matter the scale, helps both the pocketbook and the environment.  We anticipate that this space can be one that provides inspiration and answers questions regarding the planing, harvesting, and consumption of edible gardens.  Because gardening is very dependent upon your climate, please make sure you identify your general region (Wasatch Front, arid SW, Pacific NW, coastal, etc) when asking questions.

Now that the warmer weather is here, my tomato plants are growing a ton… lots of leaves and the first little green fruits are appearing.

You can let tomatoes run along the ground if you have a ton of space and a fairly dry climate.  Since I have neither on my city lot in the PNW, I need to get the plants off of the ground.  Sick and tired of storing and fighting with cages (and, honestly, finding someone to take my really used cages each time I’ve moved cities over the past few years), I decided to give staking a try this year.  I have to say that I really like it.  Every week or so I go out there and pick off the suckers (the little leaves in the elbows/v of the stem) to keep it down to one or two main stems and then use plastic tape to secure the main stem to the stake I put in the ground when I transplanted the plants.  It also gives me a chance to inspect the plants and everything is neat and tidy.

Do you have a strong preference for cages or stakes?  Why?

Garden Friday – Parsnips and Carrots for Winter

Garden Friday is a regularly scheduled feature on Our Mother’s Keeper.  Growing your own food, no matter the scale, helps both the pocketbook and the environment.  We anticipate that this space can be one that provides inspiration and answers questions regarding the planing, harvesting, and consumption of edible gardens.  Because gardening is very dependent upon your climate, please make sure you identify your general region (Wasatch Front, arid SW, Pacific NW, coastal, etc) when asking questions.

It always seems strange to plant my winter produce before the summer is hardly going.  Last Saturday, I planted 25-row feet (in beds) of carrots and parsnips.  1/3 parsnips which taste much better after the first hard freeze; 1/3 carrots that will overwinter; and 1/3 are 100-day carrots that should be ready for fall.

Carrots need fine soil to send down their main root in a straight fashion.  I spent a good 2 hours double digging the bed and adding compost.   Other carrot tricks include planting radishes in the rows to mark them since carrots and parsnips take forever (2 weeks usually) to germinate; indeed, half the battle with winter carrots is getting them germinated which takes going out every day and keeping the shallow seeds moist.  Amazingly difficult.

How about you – Do you have a carrot system you would like to share?  Do you put in overwintering root veggies? What else is going on in your garden?

 

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