I spent a bit of Saturday thinning out the wall of forsythia at the back of the yard (and this photo just shows a small part of it). The rule of thumb is take out a third (the oldest canes) each year once the bushes have turned from yellow to green. To be honest, we probably hadn’t done any of that in a few years. I hauled away several wheelbarrows of cuttings to the curb, dreaming of how maybe I could carve out enough space for a later-flowering shrub or small tree that we could see from the kitchen window or the French doors to the deck (influenced, no doubt, by the eastern redbud seedlings I’d seen at the local Master Gardeners plant sale that morning). I was seeing a difference with the pruning, and even found some daffodils that had been overtaken by forsythia (another thing to move!). But I kept thinking there has to be a better way.
So I took a break and emailed everyone I could think of, using that same headline and offering to share our bounty. Lo and behold, a half-dozen said yes, please! Must be the feeling that it’s time to do something in the garden.
In the past, I’ve given away small seedlings, figuring anything else would be challenging to dig up. But last night I tackled a big one and discovered it was pretty easy to yank out, even with a big tangle of roots. We bent the branches a bit to fit into the back of an SUV and sent it off to its new home.
Now to keep that space clear and to improve the scruffier parts of the soil until I figure out a plan.
Filed under: flowers, garden, spring | Tags: daffodils, forsythia, hyacinths
On the second day of spring, our first daffodil bloomed. Now we have hundreds out. The forsythia is just starting to fade, the creeping phlox is starting to bloom and those pesky white-flowered weeds are everywhere! (I fear the core aeration from the fall hasn’t helped, though I also know lots of them seeded last summer.)
Some shots from the yard:
Filed under: food, garden, propagating plants, seeds, spring, vegetables | Tags: basil, chard, seeds, tomatoes, vegetable garden
It’s a new year and time to be more resolute about keeping this blog up to date. The garden did fine in the back half of last year, but I got too busy to tend to it and do everything else .. and take pictures and write.
So we spent part of Presidents Day starting our 2013 seedlings (and trying desperately to use up some seed packets!).
First off, those awesome sungold tomatoes. We have nine plugs, most with an extra seed. All I want is two plants, so if they all come up, we will be taking names for those who want a plant or two.
I didn’t see any Ramapo seeds, but I filled three plugs withe the last of my Lynn’s beefsteak mix heirloom tomato seeds (supposedly a mix but I only seem to remember big red ones), black cherry and yellow plum. Another set was filled with some ‘peach’ tomatoes (a gift),, very few grape tomatoes (harvested from a previous year’s crop) and Brandywine from a colleague’s oh-so-tasty 2010 crop. Hopefully that will give us some nice variety. And again, if they all come up, more than enough to share (or swap).
And yes, somehow I will restrain myself to about eight tomato plants.
The Brit wants broccoli, so two sets of nine-plug containers have been turned over to that. A two-ounce seed packet comes with so many seeds that it could take us a long time to go through them. If you’d like some, let me know. I’d say if you want to swap seeds, let me know, but we have so many seeds already! (Oh, but I think we could use some rainbow chard)
Another set of nine plugs has been turned over to basil. Lemon Mrs. Burns seeds are finally used up, as is a packet of lime basil (a big favorite). The final third went to Italian basil, and I still have some cinnamon basil seeds to try. Once again, if they all germinate (or even if half do), we will have plenty to share.
A second set was devoted to three more herbs: some old Greek oregano seeds, plus gifts of lemon balm and cinnamon basil seeds.
Another set of nine went to parsley. I admit the seeds are a bit old, but there were lots, so we can have a high failure rate and still have plenty of plants to share.
The Brit then went wild with those Seeds of Change packets that my sister-in-law gave us a few Christmases ago. And still we have only used up one packet (Bau Si mustard greens). I think the only thing he forgot to devote any space to was arugula.
Bottom line: We’ve got two full trays on a heat mat and are anxiously checking for signs of germination.
Next month we’ll get a range of peas in the ground. And maybe we can get beets and rainbow radishes in there too. (or is that April? Potatoes are April, probably after a trip to see my mom in Ohio and the obligatory stop at a great garden center there.)
One lesson learned: snap shut that cap on the garden marker that has dried out.
Filed under: food, garden, recipe, vegetables | Tags: cooking, garden, tomatoes
First, the disclaimer: I don’t know that you can have too many tomato plants. We officially have 12 this year, but there are also a few volunteers, including one that came up in the newest bed that is pretty soil-free, being heavily filled with peat moss. (I credit the compost at the bottom.) And I’m worried they will run out fairly soon because we’ve got some kind of blight (I think) that is turning the leaves brown from the bottom of the plant up, and I don’t recall seeing a lot of new flower for the larger tomatoes.
So how to cope with too many to eat?
First, plant a variety so you have cherry tomatoes you can eat like candy (Sungolds are awesome), slicers, some oranges or other colors to play off the red ones in your salad.
And there here’s what we’ve been doing with ours (beyond salads… because I have to say, that New York Times food section article the other week on this subject was so unimaginative):
Pasta with red and gold cherry tomatoes, riffed from a cookbook called Fresh From the Farmers’ Market
Gazpacho, paired with our lemon basil and a garden cuke. We like the Alton Brown version; Worcestershire sauce is a surprise ingredient.
My mother’s rice-stuffed tomatoes. It’s really simple, and I don’t follow much of a recipe. A perfect use for the seven Rutgers tomatoes I picked from the garden this evening, with some basil and a cayenne pepper also from the garden. Here’s how to do it:
Cut off the top and set it aside. Then scoop out all the pulp from the tomato. You don’t have to be particularly neat about this. Dump that into a bowl. Repeat until you are done with all the tomatoes. Tomatoes and lids go in an oven-proof baking dish.
Then dump the pulp into a food processor. Add seasonings — in my case, the basil, the pepper and some salt. (I forgot garlic. And season heavily — I am a notorious underseasoner.) Puree it and dump it back into the bowl. Fish out any lumps and puree it again.
Then mix in rice, keeping in mind the proportion of rice to liquid that you use when you are cooking rice on the stove. Tonight I decided to experiment with cracked wheat instead and poured in too much. So I pureed some extra tomatoes to add liquid.
I then filled each hollow tomato most of the way, then put the lid back on. I covered the entire thing with foil and put it in a 350-degree oven. I remember potatoes nestled around the tomatoes from my childhood, and the last time I made this, the Brit had left a garden potato on the counter. This time I sliced up three, but I’m a little worried about whether they’ll bake through. On the other hand, it’s hard to overcook this dish. You leave it in the oven until the rice has cooked, or even longer, say, an hour, or even longer as the oven cools. I have never burned this! It’s a wonderful flavorful mix of rice and tomatoes that also works well for a brown-bag lunch the next day.
Still too many tomatoes? Can them, make sauce or this yummy chutney. Then you can enjoy them in the middle of the winter.
And if that’s too much work, I’ve heard some people will just freeze the tomatoes whole and use them when cooking.
Filed under: food, recipe, vegetables | Tags: carrots, garden, vegetable garden
We are getting to that never-ending phase of harvesting, and the stubby carrots that the Brit packed in super-closely are one of this year’s success stories.
Even better is how we have chosen to eat them: grilled, with a chipotle drizzle pulled from a book borrowed from the library called The Gardener and the Grill (personally, I thought the title captured two of the Brit’s summer interests). This has become my new go-to sauce for various vegetables and even meat, and am thinking of using it for a cold noodle salad. So far I’ve made it without the cilantro/coriander.
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 canned chipotle chili in adobe sauce (I misread this at first and was about to dump in the entire can!)
1 large garlic clove
1/3 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of honey
2/3 cup canola oil (I’m thinking just 1/3)
fine kosher or sea salt to taste
Put everything in the food processor, process until emulsified. Then transfer to a jar with a lid. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week.
We made another batch today with a fresh harvest in all shapes and sizes.
On the grill they went, using an old pie tin to keep the smaller ones from falling through the grate.
Then on a plate with a jar of drizzle. Yum!
It only seemed a few weeks ago that we were cutting garlic scapes, but the garlic stalks were definitely dying back. So out came the pitchfork and into the special garlic bed it went.
We hadn’t packed it with 70 or so cloves like last year, and some of what we planted never made it. That was somewhat disappointing because we had planted cloves from two fat bulbs that we’d bought from a ramshackle garlic stand just north of Cooperstown last summer. (We’d also planted some from last year’s harvest, including some cloves that were so dried out that I didn’t expect anything). Did the mild winter play a role? Everything certainly sprouted early. The dry spring? Who knows.
In the end, we harvested 11 bulbs, including at least four that are fatter than anything we’ve ever had.That makes us happy! Some, if not all, will be saved to plant after Halloween so we can develop our own strain of fat New Jersey garlic.
And the Brit is talking of moving the be, now sandwiched between raspberry canes, to next to his caged-in bed for greens — a spot that should be sunnier come spring and summer and that hopefully will make the garlic even happier. (And in case you were wondering, garlic apparently qualifies as both a herb and a vegetable.)
We’ve finally succeeded in growing carrots!
The Brit bought a short, stubby variety called Zanahoria, advertised as short ‘n sweet, figuring that our soil was getting loamier but that long carrots are harder to grow. Short these were, but we found them more nutty than sweet. Of course, there’s also packed in a little too tightly, in my humble opinion. For whatever reason, the Brit opted for rows across the bed (that he didn’t thin out) rather than our usual square-foot gardening technique.
Nonetheless, some of today’s harvest:
More carrots are still in the ground. Maybe he’ll slowly thin them out ’til they are all gone and he fills the space with parsnips. In the meantime, we are looking for ways to use the carrot greens. Any suggestions? Tonight some were mixed into a black rice and white bean salad,