Thursday, December 29, 2011

Garden in Review

With the New Year just around the corner, it seems appropriate to wander the garden and see what is going on. Plus, there is a break in the rain and it really hasn't been that cold. Perfect for taking a look at how the plants are doing.

I was shocked to see a rose blooming!

Mild indeed...the rose knows!

I noticed my tatsoi is also putting out new leaves. The rosettes are definitely bigger and I think the slugs have either moved on or decided to hibernate for a bit.

I can't wait for these to get a little bigger and cook them up!

And I am really enjoying this combination of Ruby Streaks mustard, escarole, and red lettuce. The lettuce came from a mix and I think it might be a red romaine.

I don't want to get too greedy with using the lettuce, but in a couple of weeks I think I'll have enough for a salad for two!

And yes, I looked at what I needed to weed. I didn't document it with photos. But, my "to do" list is tucked away in my head. I have some sections that have liverwort and fireweed seedlings that need to be removed.

Now, if someone can please explain why my "early" purple sprouting broccoli never sprouted, that would be great! I planted it plenty early in the spring.

It's huge--at least three feet tall--with gorgeous, inedible leaves and no flowers. What to do? I am tempted to yank it if it's not going to produce anything. On the other hand, it's providing some interesting structure to the bed in a spot that would typically be bare at this time of year. I guess I'll leave it in for now.

Happy New Year everyone. Stay tuned for dreaming with seed catalogs!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Italiko Rosso Dandelion

We've passed the winter solistice and the days now start getting longer. Hurrah!

Although we've had a mild winter yet, the garden is stil resting. Meanwhile, I am enjoying my red dandelion. The contrasting burgundy midribs with the bright green blades are appreciated when not much else is happening. Plus, the red and green goes with the holiday theme as well.

I was apprehensive purposefully planting a dandelion. I am now glad I did for its color and soon for eating. I hope to use the greens in a creamy stuffed pasta dish. The type of comfort food for soldiering on through the winter.

Best wishes to all of you for 2012!

Monday, December 12, 2011

More fig tree observations

I'm getting used to the new look of my fig tree and looking forward to how it will take shape once we emerge from winter.

Pruning the fig was tricky for me. The branches are much more flexible than what I'm used to. I felt the whole tree bend and twist as I worked away. Left over figs rained down on my head. I'm sure it was quite the spectacle.

As I cleaned up, my husband looked at the tree and asked, "What are the starlings going to eat?"

"Exactly!" I replied. Maybe with a small crop next season, my tree will fall off their radar and I can actually have a harvest one of these years!

Another view looking towards the house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I use the term renovation over pruning when referring to a job that initially looks pretty drastic rather than just a few cuts to improve the shape of a tree or shrub.

My first experience with such a task was when I interned at Filoli Center. We took the large laurel hedge back to "sticks" in the cutting garden. There were few leaves left to speak of. As far as my job satisfaction was concerned, I didn't feel like I accomplished much. Accodring to my eyes and what I learned about pruning in my studies, it was ugly. But, like a house renovation, there needs to be some "gutting" before the final vision is realized. I returned a year later once the new growth flushed out and saw what we did resulted in a well-controlled formal hedge.

Now, this is similar to what I had to do with my fig tree in the front yard this fall. I dreaded it--avoided it--especially with a possibly of an audience. There is no where to hide when I'm working out there. And since I'm also a professional gardener, I wonder what people think as they watch what I'm doing; fearing they're calling Plant Amnesty on me. But I knew if I did nothing, it would only be a bigger problem later on.

Last year, I had a couple of friends help me take it back a few feet. They are tree pruning professionals (arborsists) and could reach the branches better than I could with my eight-foot ladder. They could had taken more out, but I didn't blame them for being cautious.

Two afternoons later and three full large green waste cans later, I have a more manageable tree. I don't recommend this type of pruning for any tree. I know fig trees can take a hard pruning. I probably sacrificed next summer's fig crop, but I think the tree will be better for it overall. Plus, maybe with less fruit to pick from, it will fall off the starlings' radar. One can only hope!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fall Delights--Part 2

I'm super excited my tah tsai (pronounced "tatsoi") is coming back after slugs almost completely devoured them. I took drastic measures and surrounded the tiny plot with copper snail tape. Kinda funky looking, but hey, it's working!

I love the way this plant looks. It's like a miniature baby bok choy with shorter petioles (that's the leaf's stem) and a more compact leaf blade. Super cute! And looks super tasty.

As you can see, I didn't bother grooming the leaves attacked by slugs for this photo shoot.

The days are quickly growing shorter and colder. I hope the plants continue to grow. I hear that tah tsai is super cold-hardy and can even be harvested under snow. We shall see!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kiwi Berries!

An on-going question I ask my garden is, "What have you done for me lately?" I have been asking my Parthenocissus quinquefolia this ever since we moved into our house six years ago. The Virginia creeper is known for its amazing displays of fall color which I have yet to see.

I've been thinking of what I could replace this vine with. My foremost requirement being something I can eat from the garden. Maybe golden hop vine? A hardy kiwi perhaps?

Well, it turns out this year my Virginia creeper looks amazing. I've never seen it turn this color before. Usually, it turns a dull brown and drops its leaves. This is what remains after last night's downpour.

I don't talk to my plants directly, but they seem to know when they may be destined to the compost heap. Thank you for the fall color! You've been spared this year.

On the opposite side of the garden is another clothesline support. The last couple of years, I have grown scarlet runner and purple pole beans. While I have enjoyed these, the space demands something a little more permanent. I thought back to my two options. I was leaning towards the kiwi berry since I need something that will compete with the bamboo sneaking under the fence from the alley. The golden hop vine seemed less vigorous. While I like the look of the hop vine, I wasn't about to take up brewing.

Before committing to a kiwi berry in my garden (also known has hardy kiwi, arctic kiwi, baby kiwi, dessert kiwi and cocktail kiwi), I tried them again. I remember they tasted a bit strange to me when I first discovered them at Berkeley Bowl about 10 years ago.

I was pleasantly surprised this time: a little tart and a little sweet with the essence of kiwi flavor in a bite-sized berry the size of a grape. Yes! This will be the newest addition to my garden.

Before getting my hopes up, I called City People's to see check their availability. I knew I was taking a chance this late in the season and a somewhat odd request. They told me they had both the straight species (Actinidia arguta) and the 'Issai' variety. I went with the 'Issai' since it's self-fertile, meaning I don't need two plants to produce fruit; a big plus for my small garden. And, my one-gallon plant was 40% off. Yay!

I set up the trellis against the old clothesline structure and planted my new kiwi berry on its center.

I lucked out on a sunny day followed by enough rain that evening to water in my new plant. Hopefully, my plan for out competing the bamboo and providing tasty kiwi berry snacks works out!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall Delights

As the leaves change color all around Seattle, I look for similar inspiration in my fall veggie garden.

Easy punches of color can be found in Swiss chard 'Bright Lights' and many kale varieties. One favorite is 'Red Bor' that intensifies as the temperature drops.

I tried out 'Ruby Streaks' mustard last fall and was disappointed. It started out wimpy and didn't have the deep purple foliage I hoped for. Before I wrote it off as a poor performer, I decided to collect the seed anyway and try it again.

This year is a different story. The purple color looks great and really stands out against the Yucca 'Color Guard.' I'm not sure what made a difference this year. Possibly they were planted a little earlier, giving them some more time in the warm soil and adequately adjust to the gradually cooling temperatures.

I'll keep you posted on the other fall veggies I planted around the garden: escarole, tah tsai (go away slugs!), and even red lettuce.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Out with the pond. In with the blueberries

I was conflicted for a long time about removing our bog. Though a lovely feature in the spring and summer, it came apparent this year that I needed to fill it in. Too many mosquitoes, the sharp cyperus-like plants, and the constant worry a toddler might fall in. The main reason why I dragged my feat in removing it was: What would take its place?

I gave it a lot of thought. Since the pond form would stay--I couldn't imagine digging up the whole thing--it would serve great as a place to grow potatoes. I could contain them in one spot and not worry about them escaping into the rest of the garden.

But, potatoes. Are they really that nice to look at during the growing season? Sure they put out some white flowers, but then you have to wait for them to turn yellow before harvesting them.

Another problem I had this year was my Top Hat blueberry plant outgrew its corner. The bed is way to shallow where it was planted. Plus, a few days of no water during a hot spell, the poor thing got scorched. And I had a couple of newly planted North Sky blueberries I picked up from Raintree Nursery at this year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show. The small 4" plants were being overrun by the other veggies in the bed. I also acquired yet another Top Hat from City People's this fall. It was a nice looking plant and on sale. I couldn't resist!

Even though it hasn't rained that much, removing the soggy plants was quite a feat. The roots had even engulfed large rocks making the load even heavier. I had to piecemeal it into two yard waste carts, fearing the collectors would think it was too heavy to take away.

With the pond empty, it was now time to fill it with soil. Could I get away with just filling it in? The form has two levels: a deeper middle section and a ledge around the perimeter. I filled in the middle section as much as I could. It rained the following day and was a soupy mess. The blueberries would probably like a little more drainage. I couldn't get away without having drainage holes. Better do it now, rather than realizing after completely filling it in and fully planted out.

I love starting conversations with my husband like this: "Do we have an old quarter-inch drill bit you don't mind going through plastic, soil and rock?" Luckily we had exactly what I asked for. In about 15 minutes, I was able to drill all the holes.

Here's a look at the middle filled in and the ledge drilled out.

I was fortunate to have fair amount of extra soil in an adjacent bed. Last year, I installed a small eco-turf lawn and ended up with twice as much soil delivered than what I asked for. I threw it into the veggie beds and thought, "Well, as least I can grow some really long carrots!" The extra soil was perfect for filling in this space.

I couldn't wait to get planting once I finished my last shovels of soil. Here's a shot of all four plants. The Top Hats are on the ends and the two North Sky in the middle.

Here's a detail shot of the lovely fall color already showing on the North Sky.

These plants should be happy in their new location: plenty of sun and good acidic soil. The cool rains have started. I'm going to enjoy their colorful fall show and dream of a fruitful harvest for next summer.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Edibles in Front

This is the second year I've planted my heat-loving tomatoes in the front garden and the first I included eggplant.

Last year, despite our minimal summer, I enjoyed a fair amount of tomatoes from my south-facing front yard. I decided it wasn't worth trying to grow them in the back yard this year. Even with my west facing beds, I have much more space in front for them.

We had another cool summer this year, but with the little heat we did get, I had a great crop of cherry tomatoes. Remember, I'm not growing big, beefy heirlooms like Purple Cherokee. I choose varieties that have less than 85 days to mature.

Look at these gorgeous Black Cherry tomatoes!

If wonderfully vine-ripened tomatoes are your goal, then you may want to consider changing your aesthetic perspective. I find tomato towers a nice accent to my perennials. Check it out. Wow! cherry tomatoes growing behind my Cape Fuchsia and Symphytum 'Axminster Gold.'

You can see the Symphytum again behind my 'Kyoto Egg' eggplant. Both types of eggplant thrived here.

Breaking the rules and norms can lead to beautiful veggies AND a beautiful garden. Get out there and try something new!

Friday, September 30, 2011


Yes, there are times when something I've grown in the garden just doesn't quite work out.

My early purple sprouting broccoli has grown wonderfully. The stalks are huge and about 4' tall. But, I have yet to get any flowers on them.

Instead of giving up completely, I decided to try sauteing the leaves with some butter and garlic. A friend told me that the leaves can be very tasty. They seemed similar in texture to lacinato kale and became a lovely green color when I cooked them up.

Looks good!

Oh, but what a disappointment when I tried them. They were leathery and not flavorful at all. No amount of butter, garlic, and even Parmesan cheese would make these right!

Ah well. I guess I'll keep growing on the others until they finally sprout or a freeze knocks them back for the season. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beans, Beans!

Beans really are a magical fruit. I am amazed how easy they are for me every year. I directly sowed the seed once it got warm enough. This year, it was just before the 4th of July...although we got tricked into thinking that was the start of our summer here in Seattle. Then I watered them in and kept the soil moist and within a week and a half or so, they sprouted.

I couldn't keep up with the harvest this year again. But, that's okay since what I don't eat can be saved for next year's planting. And the old plants can be turned under before I plant my winter veggies.

I had fun this year planting my Purple Pole Beans next to a rose bush as a support. This rose reaches about 7-8' and was a lovely natural trellis.

I planted Purple Podded bush bean as well. Both of these had a nutty flavor. I never did get around to cooking them up. I imagine they'd be great in a stir fry. I just ate them straight from the garden. Yum!

Another cool variety were the 'Dragon Tongue' bush beans. I wish they were a pole bean because the pods with their contrasting cream and purple skin are hidden close to the ground. I'd like to have them at eye level. Ah well.

Still fun to look at even if you have to crouch down to get a peek at them. These had a more green flavor...not quite grassy, but close. Again, I only ate them from the garden and didn't get around to trying them in a dish. All of them are perfect for snacking as you wander the garden.

Oh, and for the record, another bowl of tomatoes were harvested this evening. Woohoo!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tomatoes and Eggplant

When I got home this afternoon, my son asked if we could go outside and pick tomatoes. No one has to ask me twice!

Today there was a definite hint of fall in the air. It rained last night and was still overcast when we headed out. But, still warm enough where I'm not feeling panicked about ripping out tomato plants just yet.

We gathered a fantastic looking bowl of tomatoes and eggplant. Check it out!

Most of the tomatoes are the Isis Candy which are delicious! Tangy and sweet with a cool orange-red swirl of color around the fruit. I would say it's a nice balance between the sweet, sweet Black Cherry and the punchy tang of the Wow!

I had given up on the Isis Candy harvest since they are quite slow to ripen given the cool summer we had. If it weren't for growing these beauties in the south-facing front yard, I'm sure most of them would still be green.

As we filled the bowl, my son reminded me about making green tomato pie. And, he mentioned several times he wanted it "now." Maybe later this week, we'll fill a bowl of all green tomatoes just for that.

Oh, and I almost forgot the eggplant! One of my Little Fingers eggplant finally came round and produced a handful (pun intended!). If you look closely at about 6 o'clock in the bowl, there is one peeking out. The others you see are Kyoto Egg. One single plants had a good looking and sizable crop--close to 10 eggplants!

I promise I'll make a separate post of what they look like out in the garden. I hope to convince you to plant your edibles amongst your perennials.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

End-of-Summer Tomatoes

I wouldn't say I've had a glut of tomatoes this year, but I managed to collect at least two bowls full. Better late than never with the heat we had the last week and a half. You didn't hear this Seattleite complaining about the weather. I wanted ripe tomatoes!

I took this latest harvest and added it to the pesto pasta I made last night. The pesto was simple: basil, garlic, parmesan cheese and toasted hazelnuts. Whirl the ingredients in the food processor with enough olive oil to make a paste and a couple dashes of salt and Voila! It was a big hit with my friends.

Before adding the tomatoes to the pasta, I quartered them and sprinkled them with a little kosher salt and olive oil to bring out their bright and tangy flavor.

Maybe I'll grab some crusty bread at the farmer's market tomorrow and use the rest of them for bruschetta. It will be my toast to the end of summer as I feel the slight chill of fall in the air.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shinseiki Pear

Two and a half years ago I bought a 4-way grafted Asian pear. It is advised that after the first year of planting, not to let it go to fruit. Last year, as soon as the flowers were done blooming, I plucked them off. I didn't want to be tempted by the little fruits forming.

This year, I had a fair amount of blossoms. But there were several that didn't make it. I managed to get about 8 pears total. Mind you, it is a small tree!

Not knowing how to tell when the pears are ready for harvest, I asked my favorite fruit farmers at the Columbia City weekly market. Jim, from Little Wing Farm, told me to wait until the fruit start to "glow" with a golden yellow color. He also mentioned to start harvesting from the tips of the branches and work your way in. I told him it's such a small tree, I only have pears on the tips.

I found it interesting that Jim also harvests the same trees several times through the season. He told me at first it takes some trial and error to figure out how ripe the fruit is. This year, I don't have many chances with just a handful of fruit. Hopefully it's more trial than error.

Today, I took a closer look at it. There was a pair sitting on the end of the Shinseiki graft. The fruit had a yellow glow to it and decided to take a chance. The two pears lifted easily from the branch--a promising sign! I placed them on the dining table to snap a quick picture before we dug into them.

That blur is my son's hand trying to swipe one from the table.

I sliced one and saved the other for tomorrow. They were sweet with a hint of tartness, and juicy without being watery. Good crunch and structure, too. Can't wait to see how the other compares, and how the rest of the harvest will be this season.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wow! Tomato!

Just when I thought it wasn't going to happen, it did. I've managed a bumper crop of 10 cherry tomatoes this year. High fives all around!

Turns out the tomatoes I've been tracking, were never going to turn red. Duh! They were the Wow! (yes, that's how the cultivar is written, complete with exclamation point!) cherry tomatoes, a Sungold rival according to Fedco Seeds. I'll have to say I agree. There is a certain sweetness of the Wow! that is like candy compared to the Sungolds I've had at the farmers' market.

The ones I tasted early on were a bit thick skinned for my liking. But, as the later fruits have been able to hang out on the vine awhlie, the skins seem thinner.

Their sweetness mixed with the tangy saltiness of the tuna made for a blissful lunch today as summer winds down.

I was surprised to find more later this evening that were ripe enough for snacking straight from the vine. I'll save a few for tomorrow's lunch.

Summer...better late than never around here!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Parsnip Forest!

The parsnips have taken over the small patch I sowed. Supposedly, carrots are good companion plants and sowed a couple of rows of them as well. You can't even see the carrots through all the parsnips.

The leeks are trying to get a word in edge-wise as well...

Looks like I have a major thinning project in store!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sunchokes revisited

Here are my two sunchoke patches. After reading how the variety I chose may prove difficult to break dormancy, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly they responded.

Here's one behind the cistus.

And another just on the other side and behind the asphodel.

Not bad for growing in poor soil and getting minimal water. I can't wait to see them flower. Just hoping that the weather starts to warm up a bit more!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I managed to snag a few cherries from our tree the other day. Yum! Finally after a month later than usual.

We have what look like Rainier cherries, but I have heard that most cherry trees of this type in Seattle are techincally the Queen Anne variety. And it's an old tree. This year was supposed to be a heavy-yielding crop. Not so for some reason, and what a disappointment after having to wait for so long! I have tried to figure out why my tree is so stingy this year.

The blossoms were quite prolific this spring I thought for sure I was going to have a bumper crop. But, as the fruits started to develop, I had a ton of "drop." Spent flowers with barely a hint of a cherry fell all over the ground. Maybe it was the weather? Too much wet and cold to get things going?

My other theory is that a major add-on happened next door. My cherry tree is quite close to the fence. And to my horror, the contractors took the liberty in "pruning" the branch that hung over the fence. I wish someone had told me it was in the way. I would have gladly done the job myself. Now, I don't think the pruning of the branch is the cause of low yield. I do wonder if all the heavy equipment and the new foundation pour lead to stress. I have quite a bit of suckering in my garden that makes me lean towards this theory.

Anyway, enough of that. I savored these wonderful cherries in the little sun we've had lately. I just need a taller ladder to reach the rest of them before they all fall to the ground!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Never mind the poor summer weather we're having these days. Slugs and snails have me down more than our grey skies.

I had wonderful looking marigolds at the end of spring. They were healthy, robust and oh so cute with their orange and red flowers--the Bonanza Bee. I plunked in a boarder all along the beds in my backyard.

Then slowly but surely, all of them were devoured and turned into little sticks of nothing. I didn't even get a chance to photograph the plants when they looked good. In a matter of a couple of weeks, I didn't have a single marigold to speak of!

Here are a couple of beauties.


I don't know why marigolds are a favorite with slugs. I even had this discussion with my mom. She confesses bringing out the slug bait only when she was planting marigolds. I thought the pungent smell of their foliage and flowers would deter them. I guess not!

The other plants the slugs are after are my Charentais melon. Why they don't touch the Hannah's Choice muskmelon baffles me. Luckily I started a bunch so I've been replacing them as they get munched.

I just used the last of my stockpile of starts. I'm hoping a third planting is a charm. Fingers crossed!

On a happier note, my sunchokes broke dormancy and have been growing strong for about a month now. Woohoo!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Moose Tubers!!!

My sunchokes are here! After ordering them in February from Fedco, I thought it would be forever before I received them.

Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, are a sunflower relative and a part of the Moose Tubers program at Fedco Seeds. They offer three varieties: Waldspinel, Skorospelka, and Clearwater.

I ruled out the Waldspinel despite its rose color since it is prone to knobbiness. The Skorospelka is regarded a favorite among cooks since it's relatively knob-free. I chose the Clearwater because they are knobless and Will Bonsall's favorite. He is one of the directors of Seed Savers Exchange and the sunchoke curator. I decided to trust him and try it out. I'm slightly concerned they are the slowest to break dormancy, but hopefully with our south-facing bed next to the warm house it won't be an issue. At least they are said to be tender into the fall. I can also wait until the following spring to harvest them.

The small box--a perfect 3" cube--arrived with a paper bag of bulbs inside.
A one-pound bag contained at least 10 bulbs. I planted two patches up against the front porch. With their lemon yellow daisy-like flowers, I think they will be a nice back drop to the cistus, catmint, and asphodel. And the color will pop in front of our dark red house.

One thing I was warned about these little tubers is they spread and can be hard to eradicate. I'm hoping they don't travel around too much! I can't wait to harvest my first batch and make them into a creamy, garlic-y puree this coming fall. I'll keep you posted when they sprout.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fruit Trees

Give Seattle-ites an extra day of sunshine and watch them go crazy. The talk today has been, "What? I thought it was supposed to rain. Look at it! Gorgeous day!"

Quickly followed by, "It's not going to last. It's supposed to start raining again this evening."

I'd like to think the forecast is wrong and convince myself they have it all wrong!

Enough of the weather. Let's talk about fruit trees.

First, my 4-variety Asian pear tree is doing well. I'm hoping to get at least one or two pears this year. Last year, I got one fruit that I quickly removed. It's advised to remove all the fruit the first year the plant is in the ground. Once I saw the small fruit, I removed any other spent flowers. It would have been too tempting if I left any more to go to fruit. Here's a sample of this season's flowers in the afternoon sun.

All three espaliered apples are doing well. I have three tiers on the Nittany and two on the Honeycrisp. And I managed to redirect a side branch that I snapped off from one of the Nittany's (see the Oh Snap! post). Once it warms up a little more, I will tie it down to the wire...carefully this time! I don't want a repeat of last year. I also have more flowers this year. I think I accidentally pruned the flowering shoots. Either that or I sapped the tree's energy by letting them fruit the first year.

My biggest surprise this spring is the comeback of my persimmon tree. It didn't do much of anything last year. I didn't expect a lot, but I thought there would have been a little bit of growth at the end of spring and into summer. With our harsh winter and cool spring this year, I thought it was a gonner. I even called Swanson's about getting a refund. Then I looked more closely and realizes it's not dead. There are viable buds promising leaves soon.

I'll keep you posted on fruit production as the season progresses! Hoping for sunny skies from here on out!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Planter Boxes

At this year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I bought three Shuksan strawberry plants. I planted them in my one of my boxes on the fence. This is a new experiment. I'm hoping that they will enjoy the heat up there. I was planning on purchasing an actual strawberry pot for them, but decided to work with what I've got instead. We'll see how they do. So far, they seem to be thriving even with the cold we've had since I planted them in February.

In the other box, I sowed Canary Creeper nasturtium. Nasturtiums are my favorite around the edge of a planter box. In the middle, I sowed broccoli raab. The broccoli won't get very big since I'll harvest it fairly soon after it becomes mature. I waited too long last year to use it and the stems were too woody and were not very tasty. By planting them in the box, I'm hoping it will force me to pay closer attention to them.

Nothing yet except for an empty seed packet! Stay tuned...

Monday, April 25, 2011


Apologies for not having posted since the 1st of this year. I'll blame it on the weather; this being the coldest spring on record.

Let's catch up on what's happened since I last wrote.

My culinary laurel is evidence of that. I was hopeful that I'd have a flush of leaves from the buds. After looking more closely, the little shrub was toast. It looked so ratty, I removed it immediately.

My Queen Anne cherry is finally blooming as of Saturday--our warmest day this year. I had no blooms on Friday. When I came back Saturday afternoon, about half of the flowers are open. This is the year when we're supposed to have a heavy fruit year (stone fruits have "alternate bearing years"), but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Cardoon and rhubarb are doing well. I have yet to make something with cardoon. I better act fast while the leaves are small and workable. Rhubarb on the other hand doesn't intimidate me. I made a wonderfully tangy sauce for our Easter breakfast waffles. I peeled and sliced 5 small stalks (remove the leaves! they are poisonous), added about 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a splash of water, and 6 strawberries over medium heat in a saucepan. I cooked it until the rhubarb was soft. So easy and so delicious!

I planted a patch of Early Purple Sprouting broccoli and sowed a patch of the "3 Root Grex" beet mix from Fedco Seeds. I can't wait to see how these turn out. The drizzles of rain in the last two days have at least helped relieve me of my watering duties. But really, I'm ready for some sun!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jack Frost

A week of hard frost like this and I start dreaming of what my garden will look like come spring. Thanks to my new seed catalogues--Fedco and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds--I'm conjuring a vision for next year's harvest...


I am a sucker for purple plants and purple veggies. I'll have to blame Baker Creek for this one. From 'Early Purple Sprouting' broccoli to purple-podded pole beans and 'Chinese 5-Color' and 'Black Night' peppers, I just couldn't resist the glossy pages of purple goodness!

Oh! How cute are the 'Little Fingers' eggplant?! Click on the hyperlink to check them out. Promise to come back and finish reading this entry though. I know, it's easy to get sidetracked with online seed shopping. This is a new addition to the Baker Creek catalogue. I like the description of finger-sized fruits "allowed to grow larger with no sacrifice of their mild, sweet taste and tender texture." Can't wait to try it out. I'm hoping that since the fruits are meant to be small, they'll be a perfect match to our shorter growing season. I could even slice and roast them for a pizza. Yum!

I promised myself this summer that I would grow fava beans this year after buying them at the farmers' market every week at $4 per pound. Baker Creek offers a 'Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto' fava bean that has up to six purple beans inside the pods. While the pods themselves look like they're green, I can dress up my dinner table with purple-tinged fava bean spread topped with 'Black Cherry' tomatoes on bruschetta.

Speaking of 'Black Cherry' tomatoes. I'm planning on growing them again since they were so successful last summer in my garden. Fedco provided these last year and I'll go with them again. Tasty!

Bush beans were also a hit and so easy to grow. Baker Creek offers a 'Royalty Purple Podded' bush bean. The pole and bush beans will be planted on opposite ends of the garden. I hope they make a big enough impact to complement each other this summer.

Stay tuned for more of what's to come! In them meantime, make a cup of tea or cocoa and curl up with your seed catalogs while your garden thaws.