Sunday, March 30, 2008

Onion Sprouts with a Side of Snow

I've become a sprout watcher. I can't help but check the garden every day or every other day for little green things poking their heads up through the soil.

Late last week I noticed that I just might have some Walla Walla onions this season!

Aren't they cute? I also checked the planter boxes for sprouts. I know the nasturtiums aren't germinating yet. I checked them anyway, of course. I did find a few of the French green beans unfurling in there.

Can you see them? I counted three so far. They aren't green yet.

And then there are the snow showers that have graced our first lovely week of spring. Yes, it is beautiful to watch large flakes fall from the sky and accumulate here and there. My wool winter coat emerged from the closet again. Really--I'm done with winter. I'm ready for sunny skies and warm days. Here for us in Seattle "warm" means "50 and above." Not too much to ask for, right? Meanwhile in Southern California, there has been a "cold snap" which means the temperature dropped to 65. Moving on.

I'm wondering where my sweet peas are. I haven't seen any sign of them yet. I set a handful of seeds aside to soak and start in little pots to transplant out. The 'Blue Reflections' I planted last year never even sprouted! So I'm determined this year to have the 'Matucana' fragrant beauties grace my garden.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Planter Boxes and Digging Fork

Until recently, I've been a garden purist. You either have plants growing straight out of the ground, or you stick them in terracotta pots and group them here and there around the paths. I wasn't a fan of planter boxes and cutsy pots mounted on fences.

But my garden is small. And those pots along the path can look like clutter if you're not careful. It was time to "go vertical."

The previous owners of the house had two planter boxes mounted on the fence. One was hidden behind our palm tree, and the other was by itself further down looking rather lonely. I moved the hidden one closer to the lonely one and voila! I now have more planting space.

The box on the left was planted with Nasturtium 'Alaska Mix' and the one on the right was planted with the "haricot verts" that were collected a couple of seasons ago. The nasturtiums will cascade nicely over the box. I'm hoping the bush beans will do the same. It depends on how "bushy" they are!

My other task of the day was planting out the fava beans. I overheard someone on the radio say that fava beans are a "cult vegetable, especially in California." Hmmm...I'm not exactly sure what is meant by that, but I am a native Californian and I do love fava beans. They're great in risotto or pureed with salt, pepper and lemon juice for a yummy spread on bread or crackers with pesto.

I just acquired a digging fork to loosen up my soil a bit. My puppy that likes to tromp through the garden from time to time, and I'm not that light-footed myself. The tines on the fork have the perfect spacing for planting out the fava beans. I poked the fork down into the soil an inch or two along the fence. I then placed a large bean in each hole. I don't lose my place while I'm planting. Once each hole contains a bean, I go back, cover up the holes, and water. Super easy! I'm sure I'm not the first one to figure this out.

This sure beats getting out the dandelion weeder and drawing lines around my beds. Not bad for an hour's work in the garden. I'm now dreaming of large pods filled with creamy fava beans.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Eat the Sky--Seattle Tilth's 30th Anniversary

With a title like "Eat the Sky" for Seattle Tilth's 30th Anniversary celebration, I was looking forward to an evening of inspiration and a lot of talking about veggie gardens. Anna Lappe' spoke more about the politics of food and how conventional food production leads to climate change.

Let me back up here. Frances Moore Lappe' wrote Diet for a Small Planet. Anna is her daughter and follows the same theme as her mom writing about social change, globalization, and the politics of food. The two have co-written Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet. Anna's most recent book is Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen which combines the issues behind industrial agriculture and seasonal menus from chef Bryant Terry.

There was talk of abandoned lots and crumbling baseball diamonds being converted into veggie gardens. But there was a lot more about the beef industry, the grocery industry, and biofuel production requiring more fossil fuels along with all the tweakings of statistics to make these sound better than they actually are. I felt like everyone there knew this already. It reminded me of Alice Water's bringing the concept of slow food to California cuisine--a concept that is over 30 years old. Not that it's passe', but it's not revolutionary as it was in the 1970s.

What really made me stop and think this evening was City Councilmember Richard Conlin promoting the Food System Sustainability and Security Resolution. It made me think more about Seattle's growth and how our city is becoming more dense. More high rises and condos are being built. Although I am not opposed to high- density living, it does mean less space for one's own garden. P-Patches, community gardens, and parks will be more important than ever for the quality of our lives. In my neighborhood, the Columbia City Farmer's Market has one more year in its current location. In 2010, they will start building condos where the Columbia Shopping Plaza now stands. I heard on the last day of the market last fall, they were still looking for a new location. If our market disappears, the closest market by car will be West Seattle. By bus, it's Capitol Hill. Both are inconvenient for anyone who lives in the south end.

I'll definitely be writing to my Councilmembers about this, and I'll participate in the Friends of the Columbia City Farmer's Market. Meanwhile, I count myself super lucky that I have a little spot in Seattle where I can grow my own organic food.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Seeds Into the Ground!

That tricky sun is making me think we're further into the growing season than we actually are. The biting wind was a constant reminder today that it is only March!

Still, I didn't let that stop me from sowing more seeds in the garden today. I raised a trellis for the 'Matucana' Sweet Peas. They will make a striking contrast against the yellow studio. I am a little behind I'm afraid since you're supposed to plant them as soon as the ground is "workable," or no longer frozen. I stuck a handful's worth of seed along the base of it.

Then I sowed the old beet seeds here and there around the euphorbia, forget-me-nots, daffodils, and violas. I don't have high hopes for these. If I get a few microgreens out of them I'll be happy.

I also carved out a spot for my white-flowering rosemary. It will eventually replace the cascading rosemary that isn't so cascading anymore. The flowers and leaves are a little too washed out in color. I like either white or a vibrant blue flower with dark green leaves. The cascading rosemary is starting to get a little too woody with old age so out it goes.

Don't be too hasty in shedding those layers and planting the tomatoes. We've got a few months to go!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

First Seeds Sown

To celebrate the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, I planted the first seeds for this year's veggies: Walla Walla Onions.

A friend collected "haricot vert" seeds from a few plants I gave him a couple years ago. These are those mystery French beans. Either they are truly French green beans, or they are just plain ol' green beans and the seeds were bought in France. I think the latter is more likely.

I forgot about these seeds until I did my seed inventory last month. I do remember my friend asking me if they were "bush beans" meaning that they don't climb like Jack's Beanstalk. They are more bushy and don't need support. I admitted I didn't know since I had planted them my P-Patch and had to abandon it soon after that.

When we moved into our house, I noticed someone mounted planter boxes to the fence. I'm still not that crazy about them. One of them I can't even see because it's behind a short palm tree. The one that is more visible I decided would be the perfect place for trying out the bush beans. I'm hoping they'll cascade over the box.

I'm not even sure if the seeds are still viable. If they don't germinate, I haven't committed myself to setting aside valuable space in the garden for them. I'll just plant something else in the box instead if it doesn't work out. But I'm hoping they will!