Alliums to Zinnias: a journey of two New Jersey Gardeners


Red, white and blue in the garden
July 4, 2014, 12:16 pm
Filed under: garden | Tags: , ,

red white and blue

There’s plenty of red (bee balm) and white (daisies) — and if you look closely, you might find a speck of blue-ish nepeta walker’s low tucked in there. Well, it’s there, if not in the photo.

Or if you prefer it all spread out, also across the garden:

red

 

white daisies

 

blue

Happy Fourth of July!



The hosta of my desire
July 2, 2014, 7:08 am
Filed under: garden | Tags:

hostasGiven that our property backs onto woodland and deer are a nuisance throughout the neighborhood, it’s strange that I would even be talking about hostas. After all, they are supposed to be deer candy.

But somehow the ones around us either don’t have a sweet tooth or — more likely — don’t want to venture up against the house, where the hostas are, figuring it’s easier to munch at the neighbors. We generally do pretty well with them. The most damage may come from having many that are in a spot that gets a decent amount of sun that end up with burned leaves.

We have the usual solid green-leaf variety (plenty of those!) and some that are green-and-white striped. Then there are some blues, a brighter green, one that’s more of a green-gray, at least early in the year. We have some with tiny leaves, and some that are oversized. In the last year or so, I got a tiny bit of a blue one with a lime-green stripe down the middle that my sisters are already eyeing once it gets big enough to divide. And there’s a green one that has a golden yellow trim that probably would be even more visible if I’d give it a shadier spot.

But this is the one I really want: a pale yellow variety with green in the middle. I spotted it on a trip that took us to northern Pennsylvania, and would it pop among the greens and blues!

yellow-green hosta

I figure I have a few choices: always travel with a trowel and sneak a piece of what catches my eye when no one is looking in the middle of the night, offer to divide the plant in exchange for a piece, or just ask everyone I know if they have it. Of all the options, No. 3 is clearly the best.

Consider yourself asked.



Bountiful harvest
June 29, 2014, 7:13 pm
Filed under: flood, garden, vegetables | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been horribly neglectful of this blog (how else do I explain that April post published at the end of June?). But it’s shaping up to be a fabulous season in the garden.

We’ve been harvesting oversized leaves of Swiss chard and sauteeing them in a cast-iron skillet, often on the grill. We’ve started topping pizza with kale. And the garlic scapes have been converted into garlic-scape pesto that then get smeared onto our grilled pizza. In fact, we did a great job feeding a group of friends last night with food we’ve grown, topped off with items from an area farmers market and the guests’ more routine contributions.

Coming soon will be tomatoes — there already are green ones on some plants, plus plenty of yellow flowers. That makes me happy! And I figure the first two homegrown zucchini will be ready for picking later this week. We have three plants this year — there could be a lot of zucchini bread in addition to a steady stream of grilled zucchini slices. Perhaps it’s time to learn about zucchini “pasta”.

Tonight’s pizza, made with homemade dough, sauce canned last year, garlic-scape pesto and garden kale plus store-bought cheese and grilled outside. Delicious!

pizza 001

And just  small peek at the garden now:

kale plus chard

 

zucchini



The garden in April
April 10, 2014, 6:29 pm
Filed under: flowers, garden, indoors, seeds, spring, vegetables | Tags: ,

((Apologies — this was written in April and then never published))

DaffodilsNo joke: Our first daffodil bloomed this year on April Fool’s Day.

As I look back at previous years, I realize just how late that is. I’ve blogged about the first blooming in early March one year, mid-March another year. But this was a brutal winter, with snow on the ground until mid-March (end of March before the last was gone from some parking-lot mounds or super-shady bits of the neighborhood), and even after that, we’d be teased with a wonderfully sunny spring day that would be followed by freezing temperatures and at least the threat of flakes.

But with April, we seem to finally be getting warmer temperatures. And today I can’t count the number that are in bloom. A couple of hundred for sure, I’d say, though almost exclusively two varieties: All bright yellow with a big trumpet or a very pale yellow with a bright yellow trumpet. The clumps are getting bigger, too, which means I need to put dividing daffodils and mixing them up more as I replant on the spring to-do list. (I’ll never find them if I wait until fall).

The forsythia is also running late. It looks like it could burst out tomorrow, though.

As for the seedlings in the basement, we have nowhere near a 100% germination rate. That’s probably a good thing, given how many seeds I planted! Though I’d have like a bit more variety than what we have. As it is, we’ve already transplanted 18 tomato seedlings out of seed-starter mix, including six Brandywines and even more of Sophie’s Choice, an extra-early determinate heirloom from Canada that apparently delivers relatively large, flavorful tomatoes. Determinate means all the flowers come at once, rather than continuing all summer, but I will be thrilled if we are eating garden tomatoes before the Fourth of July.

We also have some Blondkopfchen heirloom yellow cherry tomatoes and a couple of Ananas Noir heirlooms, which I think will be mostly green with more red at the base and then more green inside. If nothing else, they will add some interesting contrast to a plate of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella.

Clearly I’ll be giving plenty of these away (this year’s bed has room for eight plants, though maybe I can get away with two Sophie Choice plants elsewhere, or in containers, to say nothing of the neighbor’s raised bed…), but hopefully I’ll also be able to swap for a different variety or two.



Setting myself up for a tomato glut
February 25, 2014, 5:47 pm
Filed under: flowers, indoors, propagating plants, seeds, vegetables | Tags:

Every year I vow that I will restrain myself with tomato plants. And I do — sort of — when it comes time to put them in a raised bed. But I am less restrained when it comes to starting seeds. After all, you never know what will germinate and what will flop, right? (And last year, the Brit pushed for using up all those Sungold seeds…) So I usually find myself foisting plants on colleagues and/or appropriating space in a neighbor’s bed.

This year could be at least as bad.

In the quest to use up many of the seeds we have so that I can justify those blue indigo tomatoes next year, I have planted 27 plugs, each with a few seeds because, hey, they’re old so will they all germinate? If they all do, I’ll end up with close to 100 plants — probably enough for the entire neighborhood! But that’s a problem for another day, to sort of borrow a phrase from Scarlett O’Hara. In the meantime, I think (hope?) I’ve found a good way to keep track of all of them at least until it’s time to transplant them into bigger containers.

the tomato-planting plan

The good part is that I did use up a lot of the seeds. And that if it all flops, it’s early enough that I can start another round. The bad part is that I still have quite a few, though the variety is much more manageable for that second round. I didn’t even touch the unopened pouch of black cherry tomatoes, which was a tough thing to do. And maybe I’ll find someone who’ll swap a Sungold or a Sunsugar (even sweeter) for one of mine.

Even if I can’t pull off that last part, I could have quite the colorful tomato salad, with nearly a dozen types of tomatoes. The assortment includes plenty of Brandywines (two different gifts of seeds), an orange variety, yellow plum, yellow cherry, a chocolate stripe and more.

And heck, if I’m going to get my fingers all dirty and start a heat mat, I might as well try some other seeds. So the last of a pack of miniscule alyssum seeds is planted, as is half a pack of white nicotiana that I hope will add a wonderful scent to the deck on a summer’s evening.

Next round: Basil? Salad greens?



A winter-sowing experiment

Two days of sunshine and temperatures that hit 50! And on a weekend! Yes, more snow is possible tonight and later in the week, but for now, after this brutal winter, I am thinking spring and the garden.

Not that I can really see much green. The snow, while melting, is still deep, the raised beds are covered and the crocuses are nowhere to be seen. The river behind us? Sprawling from all the runoff.

flooded Millstone

So naturally I planted seeds. Seeds that desperately needed to be used and which I had forgotten to plant in years past. I took some plastic containers that once contained candied ginger, dried cranberries and greens (not all together!) that I had been stockpiling for too long with the intent of turning them into mini-greenhouses. Following the instructions here, I slashed drainage holes, filled with soil, watered deeply, added seeds, slashed air vents … and left them in the snow on top of a raised bed. The idea is that the seeds will germinate as the cold ends and the plants know it’s safe to come up. It will then be up to me to water them as needed and open their air vents more and more.

winter seed sowing

One container is full of Texas hummingbird sage, which promises lovely red flowers and hopefully a stream of hummingbirds. Another is borage, and then there’s mullein and tall fernleaf fiddleneck. The last has half a packet of butterfly weed, whose orange flowers appeal to me as well as to butterflies. I’ll aim to to spread the rest in April, when light frosts are still possible, because the packet says it develops a long taproot and therefore doesn’t transplant well. Just to hedge my bets.

And with that, five of our many seed packets are used up.

One of this year’s goals is to use more of what we have. So no blue indigo tomatoes until next year.



The last of 2013
December 28, 2013, 5:53 pm
Filed under: vegetables, winter | Tags: , ,

december vegetables 001A sunny day, so the Brit cleared out the raised beds today. Our final harvest of 2013: About two dozen stubby orange carrots no longer than 4 1/2 inches (but more often the length of baby carrots), oversized, foot-and-a-half leeks that came to us as seedlings from Ohio and a bowl full of kale.

The beds are now empty (aside from where we planted garlic for 2014 a month ago) and covered with leaves to keep the soil from getting compacted and to restore some nutrients to the mix as they break down.

With winter here, it’s time to flip through the seed catalogs that have started arriving and coming up with a plan for 2014. Any favorites to recommend?




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