The Potager

The Potager

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Countdown to Spring

As I write this, Spring is only 9 days away! That thought makes me happy.
I have come home to a dreary rainy afternoon with temperatures forecast to plunge tomorrow (wind chill in the single digits!!!) and I so long to be in the garden. Yesterday the temperature hovered near 60 and I cleaned up my compost piles and prepared some soil to use when I plant my parsnips. This taste of coming spring is so hard for me. I know the soil in the garden is still too soggy to be worked. Patience, gardener, patience.
What I can't do outside I try to do inside. Each day as I water my seedlings I smell the warm earth smell and I am unexplainably happy.
The onion seedlings are doing well. All of the red onion came up, and all but 6 of the white onion have shown themselves. I'll give them a few more days and then replant the missing white onions.
I planted 22 leeks with year old seed. So far 7 have germinated. Since the seed is "old" I will give them more time before I re-sow.

I made a "grow light" by combining a 4 foot shop light from our local home center and two different florescent light bulbs. The warm white light contains the reds needed by plants and the cool white light contains the blues. I have read that this will work and I have to say the onions are doing much better than when they were straining towards the window for light. The light is hanging from ceiling hooks and can be moved up as the seedlings grow. It wasn't that expensive for an experiment.
I am chitting my potatoes. Chitting is putting potatoes with the broad eye-producing end up so they get some light and start to grow sprouts. I have three kinds here: the ones with the red sprouts are Colorado Rose, the ones with the gold sprouts are Nicola and the ones with the blue sprouts are Purple Majesty. I also have Apple Rose Finn fingerlings. I have way more potatoes than I can fit in my beds at the moment. My gardening eyes are bigger than my garden! Also, I bought these while I was at the Philadelphia Flower show and it was so crowded that I didn't really read, I just grabbed by color.  When I got home I realized all of my potatoes are mid-season potatoes. Oops.
I have a sweet potato on my kitchen counter that is trying to grow sprouts. It was one of those supermarket ones wrapped in plastic. It is a bad idea to wrap sweet potatoes in plastic as the vegetable needs to "breathe". I had bought it a week or two ago for a quick meal and never cooked it and it started growing in spite of being suffocated! I still intend to go to a local farm market and get a local sweet potato to plant, but you never know - this one may do well. Plants constantly surprise me.
Most of my time is spent planning, plotting out beds, erasing and redrawing the plans. Perusing seed catalogs for this year's next best thing. I find so much joy in this.
As much as I look forward to St. Patrick's Day as official Pea Planting Day, I will not be planting this weekend, even if a miracle makes the soil workable, because I have a wedding and a birthday dinner taking up my whole weekend. But I am casting my eyes on the following weekend to get my peas in. 

“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.” - Henry Van Dyke



Saturday, March 8, 2014

Winter's End?

The snow is slowly melting.  Is this awful winter almost to an end?
I ache to be out in the garden, but the soil is frozen, wet and snow covered.
Yesterday my friend and I attended the Philadelphia Flower Show. It was so lovely to see flowers in bloom.
The theme was ARTiculture. While the colors were eye-popping, I didn't glean a lot of useful ideas.
Eh.
What?
Arial ballet - interesting.
I do want this. I cannot afford this. But I do want this.
Still to smell the flowers and see the greenery and to spend the day with a good friend - it was a wonderful day.
The next day I walked around the garden. It is 50 outside but the snow lingers on. The chives are peeking through.
Ahh, spring is coming! And one lone hyacinth didn't care that the snow still covered most of the flower garden.
But that is all I could find. So I cleaned up my "potting shed".
A through inventory of supplies for the coming season. When Spring does come, I'll be ready!
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.  ~Hal Borland

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Snow Sowing

It is 60 degrees today! Last week we had snow. Next week we are supposed to have very cold weather (this is the year of the Polar Vortex) but today it is so warm! It makes me want to get out in the garden.
Yesterday I read an article about snow sowing in the Hudson Valley Seed Library Newsletter. You can read the article here. Perfect timing! I found a spot in the potager where the ground was bare.
Not the best soil by any means! Look at the moss growing there!
The soil in hard frozen one inch down. I removed the moss and weeds growing there (weeds? really?)
And added compost on top since the ground was really mucky. I took the compost from the bottom of the bin I was using last year. It was covered in pine needles and not frozen at all. And look what I found!
Yes, it's the compostable cup my daughter bought back from Canada two years ago. Still not composted.Ha!
The snow sowing directions said to broadcast about 20% more to make up for snow drift.
I may have done 50% more. I planted cilantro and arugula.
I covered them up and tried to mark the rows, but when the ground is frozen one inch below, nothing can pierce it. My markers kept falling over. So I covered them with straw.
That was not in the instructions, so if this fails, I'll blame it on my not being able to follow directions!
My daughter's cat T-Rex took the place of my beloved Binx as my garden companion. But he eventually found the smells in the (very messy) garden shed to be more enticing!
By the way, I have a kitten. She is 6 months old and doesn't sit still for photos, but she looks like a little Binx. She needs to grow into her ears - they are huge right now! She looks like a little bat! She's already the alpha cat in the house - my daughter's male cats let her push them around.
Unlike Binx, little Molly is fearless and overly friendly to everyone - not good qualities for an outside cat. So she may not be my next garden cat. She is smart, though, so she may do alright outside. I'll see how she does this summer in small supervised doses. Indoor or outdoor, she's a little bundle of joy.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Onion Seeds planted

It is snowing -- again. We have had so much snow this winter.
Perfect day to plant some onions!
My onion sets and onion starts last year did not produce very nice onions. It could be that with the wedding and surgery, I neglected the garden a bit. Or it could have been the sets and starts. How likely is that?
Either way, I am anxious to get my hands in soil, and it is onion planting time! So while the snow whips around outside, inside I washed my seed tray from last year in hot soapy water and gathered my supplies.
I bought two kinds of onion seeds - Sweet Yellow Spanish Utah Jumbo and Red Burgundy.
I planted 36 red and 33 yellow ( I lost one of my original seed starting trays over the winter and used a six pack I had laying around).  I would love to say I then placed them in a sunny window.
They were placed by a window.  If the winter keeps going this way, I may invest in some grow lamps.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Williamsburg

My daughters, daughter-in-law and I had a girls weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia this past weekend. A chance to get away and have some fun.
My girls know me. The second place we hit in Colonial Williamsburg was a garden. (The first was a winery. Like I said, my girls know me!)
Yes, it's February. But a garden is a garden. And mine is covered in snow. Has been for weeks. Will be for a few more according to the weathermen.
This garden was not covered in snow. In fact things were growing! Not a lot, but some things. You can see cloches in the foreground of the photo above. They all had little plants in them, but I forget what they were.
There was broccoli growing beneath this arch tunnel. It looked a bit frost bitten. hopefully they cover the tunnel at night. And I'm not sure what was to the left of it. There were onions or leeks to the right.

I am such a fan of twig structures. This bean trellis had little bean plants growing out of the straw. This is cute, but I think it would be hard to harvest the beans with this structure.
Twig tee-pees - be still my heart. We don't have many long twigs in the pine barrens.
But I do have doors left over from the wedding. I have been wanting to make a cold frame out of them.
This looks so nice. (Of course these are windows, which would be lighter and easier to raise than a full door)
Do you see the tarp over the fence behind the cold frame? When the temperature is going to drop down into the teens, the gardeners pile hay or straw on top of the cold frame and cover it with the tarp. Teens? My cold frame would have been covered for the past six weeks! It's been going single digit around here at night!
I didn't get a shot of the cute wooden wheelbarrow that the gardener used to lug in the manure. The horses in the town provide free fertilizer! This is not a wheel barrow, but so cute. It would be a great way to lug my amazing future harvests from the garden! I can dream, can't I?
Gardening is all about next year dreams, isn't it?
But my favorite thing about this winter garden was this firepit, It was bricks piled up against the wooden fence, with logs stacked up and burning. It gave off so much heat. You may have noticed that all the people in the photos above had their hands in their pockets. It was really cold. This was so pleasant to be near.
Across the narrow walkway from this were stalls where Williamsburg sold goods during the Christmas celebration, so I guess it was to keep them warm. It really warmed all the area around it. And it's just piled up bricks. Ingenious.
Oh hubby......

Monday, October 21, 2013


Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves.
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves.
~Humbert Wolfe, P.L.M.: Peoples, Landfalls, Mountains, 1936

Our crabapple trees are loaded with fruit this year.
I should learn how to make crab-apple jelly.
Not being big jelly eaters, would we even eat it if I did?
I have never seen the trees so heavy laden with fruit. Does this portend a cold long winter? Or is it just because of the extra watering the trees have had since the sprinkler system was installed in the back yard?


The Montauk Daisies are full and lovely. The bush missed a cutting and has sprawled to the ground, but the daisies keep it from looking bad. How could anything look bad with pretty daisies covering every inch of it?

Our Pampas Grass has no heads this year. It is over 6 feet tall and looks amazing, but I miss those fluffy seed heads. 
The Virginia Creeper which we've allowed to climb on our fence, and spend a lot of time trying to control everywhere else, has turned a beautiful shade of red.  This is one of those plants that got away from us quickly. It was a volunteer in a potted bush we bought at a nursery. We quickly learned that if you pull it out and then throw it on any type of ground, it will root and take off. I could see this covering Sleeping Beauty's castle in no time flat. But it has no thorns. And it is a lovely vine, when controlled.
Spring is exciting, and summer is glorious, but Autumn has a very special charm of its own. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hello,....did you miss me?
It has been a busy summer, and now look! fall is upon us.
The marigolds have taken over the garden.
 They are spilling into the paths and should be cut back, but I am letting them have their last hurrah. They are so pretty.
We are still harvesting cherry tomatoes, but the larger tomatoes all succumbed to cooler temperatures and died away.

The peppers are still producing, as is the lettuce and the Royal Burgundy Bush Beans.
We still go into the potager daily to harvest these and fresh herbs.
It is such a pleasure to have these fresh vegetables to put into our fall stews and soups.
The beets I planted did not do well and none of my radishes came up.
I think my soil may need some serious work.
Unfortunately, I had another surgery, a minor one, that is prohibiting me from lifting, so garden work is being pushed off again.
The swiss chard is doing great. We are just tired of eating it!
The flower garden is quite over grown, with flowers obscuring the path. But it has it's own end of season charm, so it is being left alone for now.
The fall garden should be very productive, but this fall gardener gets behind every year. I really don't mind my neglectfulness. Overgrown and neglected seems just right this time of year.