Despair and Redemption

Late Spring Harvest.jpgAfter descending into a pit of election-related despair for a few long months, we have emerged winners! Thanks to a new job, fresh vegetables, a happier Hurricane, and a brand-new Beta fish named Squiggles, we’re looking on the brighter side of life.

In celebration of my folks’ 49th anniversary and my own 19th, we triumphantly harvested $12-worth of fennel, a priceless romanesco, baby carrots, French beans, and a few watermelon radishes for good measure. All of which went beautifully with a feast of filet, shrimp, and fish.

Fennel with Romanesco, Baby Carrots, Haricort Verts, and Radishes

6-8 baby carrots (peeled and halved or quartered into similar sizes as necessary)
3-4 fennel bulbs (thick stalks discarded and  bulbs cut into halves or quarters and then thinly sliced)
4 watermelon radishes (treat them as you would carrots. Totally optional, btw.)
1 head of Romanesco (washed thoroughly to remove loopers and cut into florets)
1-2 cups haricort verts (stem ends removed, snap them half if you absolutely must)
4 cloves of garlic (or 2 shallots) peeled and minced
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoons white wine
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon salt, to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400 °F.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the minced garlic or shallots with the olive oil, white wine vinegar, white wine, Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine carrots, fennel, romanesco and haricort verts. (Or whatever vegetables your garden has decided to provide)
  4. Toss the vegetables with the prepared vinaigrette. Arrange vegetables on 2 cookie sheets.
  5. Cover pan with foil and roast vegetables for 15 minutes, swapping racks halfway through the cooking time.
  6. Uncover and roast, turning occasionally for 10 minutes.
  7. Switch pans and roast until vegetables are tender and browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Advertisements

Basil in a Ball Jar: Why Didn’t I Think of This Sooner?

It’s no secret that POD’s best ROI comes in the form of its abundant herb garden and that sticker shock at the grocery store is an actual thing come February. Our garden may be tiny, but it’s mighty.

So basil. We miss it so. It’s nowhere to be found at the Kroger and a wee wilty stem of the stuff sets a cook back at least $3 at the local organic place. Add that to a recent trip to the Home Depot for a light fixture we couldn’t find, rope that no one was available to cut, hooks that don’t exist, and air filters that were out of stock resulted in this near-genius idea:

Basil in a Ball jar
Basil in a Ball jar

 

Basil in a Ball Jar. Oh, yeah. Not an earth-shattering or a particularly new idea, but duh! Instead of shelling out $8-12 for a kit, the Hurricane and I shook off our frustrations, grabbed a bag of dirt (which, miraculously, they had in stock) hurried home, dusted off a few canning jars, sniffed the Sharpies, and broke open the seeds.

Dirt+1/2c water+seeds+sunny sill = 10 days later and we have basil and cilantro seedlings! Huzzah!

Making Plans: Bed 3

4×8 Raised Bed Garden Map

Surely, this is a huge mistake. 2016’s tomatoes were incredible, amazing, prolific, and enduring. And honestly, I didn’t do a thing. Stakes collapsed, proving entirely insufficient for the task, the previous year’s wildflower offspring snuck up between the vines and I didn’t have the heart to stop them, and I watered when I remembered. Fruits were smushed by the alley’s traffic but it was totally fine because there were plenty more on the vine. Tomato-devouring squirrels lived in fear (or died by the dozen). I’m pretty sure the garden cat did more for the tomatoes this year than I did.

Happily, tomato-devouring squirrels lived in fear (or died by the dozen). I’m pretty sure the garden cat did more for the tomatoes this year than I did.

garden cat gets the squirrel

This year, however, we’ve got big things in store for our tomatoes.

Bed 3 will feature a purpose-built tomato support system, a first for POD. In addition to Jelly Bean, Easy Sauce, Orange Whopper, and a volunteer (which we’re sure to have), we’ll plant a few basil plants and marigolds.

raised bed garden plan

Making Plans: Bed 2

The Usual Suspects: Corn, Beans, & Muskmelon

Nothing to see here, folks. This bed spells summer.

First sowing of beans: May 1
Corn: May 1
Pepper Seedlings: May 1

  • Note to self about peppers. So, in a marathon session of online seed ordering, I ordered Gurney’s California Wonder peppers. Not really thinking about the fact that they’re SEEDS, not plants. And while I love the idea of growing peppers from seed –and the magic of seeds, in general — our tiny house isn’t the best place to cultivate seedlings. Our little home is a dangerous vortex of clumsy cats, a demanding Hurricane, poorly positioned windows, and too-much-to-do-to-little-time-disorder. It’s enough that I manage to keep a kid and three cats alive, let alone seedlings. Anyhoo, I digress. So that May 1 thing is a loose guideline. The Hurricane and I are going to make seed germination a cool science thing this spring and she’s in charge of keeping them alive. Not that she knows that yet. Plan on an early to mid-February seeding session.

Beans: May 1 (or earlier, weather depending. It’s been, like, 70 degrees, for 3 days. In January. But hey, Global Warming is just a thing scientists cooked up to get funding. No biggie. Nothing to cry about here.

Cucumbers: This year we hit Gurney’s for our seeds and sets. Just not super happy with Burpee’s last year — plant sets arrived late and battered and the cucumbers succumbed pretty immediately to blight.

Melon: Here’s hoping the Li’l Sweet Hybrid is amazing, because we need melons to work it this year. We need a money maker.

garden-map-2-2017

Making Plans: Bed 1

Making Plans (POD Style): Bed 1

I’m pretty sure the Russians are going to be taking over the Kroger by the time spring rolls around, so January feels like a great time to get my head straight and garden plan on.4x8 Raised Bed Garden Map

It’s a brand new world, good garden people. As I type, a grand garden shed is being erected in the back 40 (more on that later) with plenty of room for tools and just enough room for out-of-towners.

We’re expanding to four, count ’em FOUR, 4×8 beds this spring which means all sorts of fun. Undoubtedly, I’m being over-ambitious here, but hey, a gardener’s gotta’ dream. The first bed features early spring goodies. Nothing terribly earth-shattering in this particular bed, other than one last (I swear) attempt at growing something in the brassica family.

brassica-lace

After suffering a series of catastrophic cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts failures over the years (thanks for being so dependable, cabbage loopers and stink bugs, you’re the best!), I swore I was done. Then the Endurer hit me with puppy eyes and we’re giving romanesco a shot. We haven’t seen one of these fractal beauties since fleeing the East Coast.

I thought Nashville was the next “It” city. Come on y’all, get with the program.

 

Plants on Deck: Garden Planning 2017, Making a List

Last year’s garden was a largely a success, despite a shocking amount of neglect. Despite totally insufficient staking, four varieties of tomatoes flourished through early November, with the last of the green tomatoes ripening and becoming a delicious late December sauce. And happily, for the first time in POD’s history, an almost sufficient (the Hurrican and I really, really like beans) amount of green beans hit the table. The only complete failure were the cucumbers, which quite immediately contracted a blight and died after one round of prolific fruiting.

This year, one of POD’s many ambitious resolutions (ranging from chestnuts like exercise more and snack less to unicorns like slow down and smile more) includes paying a bit more attention to both the tiny plot of Lockeland Springs land and then actually writing about it right here in this here blog.

Plants on Deck: Garden Planning 2017, Making a List.
Plants on Deck: Garden Planning 2017, Making a List.

Garden of Neglect

IMG_2793So much has happened in gardenland this summer that it’s been tough to keep up. Despite so-so attention, the summer garden was a one family CSA. Alas, it’s on the wane, and we’re digging in for the fall.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Zucchinis have been uprooted after six solid weeks of zucchini meals four nights out of seven.
  • The four cucumbers caught a wilt and produced a meager dozen of fruits. Note to self: lemon cucumbers may be Nana’s favorites, but they’re not ours.
  • Tomatoes are going great guns, despite totally inadequate staking and a nasty, nasty worm proble
  • BEANS! Finally, after years of failure, the yields have been spectacular this year

And in the fall garden, seeds planted today by the Hurricane and yours truly:

  • parsnips
  • rutabagas
  • leeks
  • beans (more beans!)
  • zucchini & cucumber (round two, planted earlier this month)

Rocket Fuel

Wow. Behind on posts these days. But here’s the thing: we had a great spring for greens. The two beds produced well, but we’re still figuring out how much to plant and when. So, file this away in the “Note to Self” department: go greens crazy in March. We planted a two squares of arugula and spinach and four squares of lettuce. Not enough. Cover the beds with arugula and spinach, scatter in a few square of lettuce, but go for the greens. They’ll be ready to yank by the time May planting season rolls around in earnest and the freezer will be well-stocked with arugula pesto and my craving for saag paneer will be sated.

We love arugula around here, but never had the space to grow enough to do much beyond topping a few sandwiches. This year two square feet of garden space produced plenty of sandwich toppings, salad spice and three cups of arugula pesto. That’s a lot of rocket.

Planted in early March, the Selvatica arugula had just started to bolt when the craving for pesto hit hard. The entire patch was plucked and pesto was pounded. As this is apparently a smaller, wilder form of the tangy green, it’s a bit more heat tolerant, so we’re reseeding today, hoping for one more crop.

Note to Self: Although we did a much better job planting both beds with spring crops this year, I’m going all in next year and plan to plant an abundance of greens in early March, using each available square foot. It’ll take some fortitude, but when it’s time for summer planting, I’ll get all ruthless and yank them to make way for beans, zucchini, melons and corn in late April.

Help!

Okay, so here’s the thing: I need a good local nursery (Nashville, TN) or a great mail order one. Go!

My starts from Burpee are gorgeous, but customer service was so-so and they arrived a good two weeks later than I would have liked, despite asking nicely to have the shipment move up. And my lone Roma start from Territorial arrived more dead than alive.

Help a gardener out, friends.

Beans for My Baby

The Hurricane is not much of a baby anymore, having just forsaken “Frozen” for a reinvigorated allegiance to Hello Kitty and Rainbow Dash. (That I know a Pretty Pony name frightens me terribly.)

At any rate, this gorgeous Tennessee weekend was a busy one. False Indigo seeds imported from Michigan now bookend our gorgeous Autumn Sage, just upstage from our overwintered Blanket Flowers. Perfect timing, as our daffodils have gasped their last and the tulips are about to say goodnight for the season. Snap dragons augment the perennial pansies and self-starting borage, coreopsis, and zinnias have been transplanted from last year’s flower bed (eventually this year’s tomato patch, if Burpee ever gets around to sending us our starts) into the treacherous front hill. Calling all bees!

Lest you think this blog is about pretty things, let me tell you about our beans.

We love beans. And, legendarily, POD has had a rough go of growing this maFile_000 (4)gical fruit. Last year was okay, at best, if you count black-eyed peas as beans. Which I do. I really do. We managed a few great pesto/bean/pasta meals featuring the young pods and enjoyed a New Year’s Hoppin’ John feast from our quart of shelled dried peas, but our Royalty Purple suffered from storms and poor garden positioning and our Kentucky Wonders were not so wonderful.

So this year, because I had to spend money on at least one new gadget, we’re going to plant our pole beans around this shiny new leaning tower, a row of faithful cow peas (black-eyed peas) and lima beans already line the property line fence, and a strip of Scarlet Runner bean will, we hope, will multitask as beautiful and bountiful.