The Potager

The Potager

Monday, March 19, 2018

Another week, another Nor'Easter

As Charles Dudley said, "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." We have had the most unusual March weather I can remember. We have had a snowy Nor'easter once a week since March started. I still have patches of snow in my garden from the last one!
Tomorrow is the first day of Spring, and of course, we have a snowy Nor'easter heading our way. (With talks of another this weekend?)  If there was something I could do about it, I would because Saint Patrick's Day has traditionally been pea planting day for me and my peas are still in their seed packages! 

There is really no need to rush pea planting. They don't germinate well if the soil is too cold and they rot if it's too wet. Our soil temperature is in the mid 40's, which would be perfect for the peas if it weren't for the forecast! 

I don't watch broadcast television, so the first I heard of this snow was Saturday. I was planning on planting the peas today. It would have been perfect. It's warm (well, high 40's - feels warm to me!) and the soil is workable in the areas I'm planning on planting peas. The 7 day forecast had been talking of a warm up. Then we got the forecast from Big Sky on our Alexa Saturday morning and heard about the snow. Boy, were we surprised! 

Still,  it was beautiful out today, so I did prepare the beds for the peas (and potatoes and arugula, and spinach and radishes.) I pulled any weeds and topped all the beds with compost. It felt so good to be outside gardening.
This bed has my fall planted garlic in it.  Garlic and peas grow well together. I was going to prepare the bed next to this one for more peas, but when I took off the mulch, it was riddled with vole holes!😡 I was going to wait until the fall to put hardware cloth in that bed, but I am thinking I may try to do it this spring, if I can.

This past week I planted my pepper seeds inside.


I planted 20 peppers, because they freeze well, they are easy to grow, and because they are very healthy for you. They are the highest vegetable source of vitamin C, in addition to other vitamins and antioxidants. These benefits are especially high when you allow your peppers to ripen to red, orange, yellow or purple, depending on the variety you plant. I also like green bell peppers, so I planted 4 varieties of bell peppers so I could let three varieties ripen and eat the green bell peppers from the fourth one.  I also planted another sweet pepper that I grew last year with good results, that is more horn shaped, Corno di Toro, which translates "Bull's Horn". I had already planted cayenne peppers the week before, and I also planted jalapeno and Anaheim peppers for some heat. Yum!

Peppers like hot temperatures, while growing and while germinating. I put the seedling tray on the shelf in my kitchen above the kick-space heater, where they will be nice and cozy. When the seedlings appear, I will move them to lights in my grow room.
When I put the peppers in the potager, probably after Mother's Day, I will avoid areas where the garden is cold (like the bits where the snow still hasn't melted) and instead place them where it is warmer. However, peppers don't do well with too much sun, so warm with afternoon shade would be ideal.


This week as the snow falls, I'll be in the grow room planting seeds for tomatoes and flowers.  Hopefully next week I'll be able to let you know how the pea planting went! If it's not snowing again!

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.
— David Hobson

Thursday, March 8, 2018

March is roaring like a lion!

Last week the wind and rain we were expecting turned out to be a snow storm. The wind knocked down a section of fence in our yard, snapping the post at the ground level! By the next afternoon, it was as if it had never snowed! March roared in like the proverbial lion!

Then yesterday, another nor'easter blew in. They said rain for our area and we ended up with 4 inches of wet snow!
I went out to snap a photo of the garden in the snow and the dogs followed me. They are not allowed in the garden during growing season, but they really enjoyed their chance to run around. Teagan flew through the paths and Chase - well, chased.
In that bed to the left you can see my garlic poking through the snow. It was planted in the fall. There's also turnips coming up in another snow covered bed. Nothing the romping dogs could destroy with the snow cover.

Today the sun is shining and the weather is warming up. I had brushed the snow off the cold frame last night, but it had to be vented today, so that was my only outdoor garden chore.
 I use scraps of leftover lumber for venting.  I lay them flat for temperatures in the thirties and stand them up for the forties and if the temperature goes into the fifties the glass comes all the way up. Heat builds up in this little cold frame!
This is a peek in one side of the cold frame. There's some kale and spinach (which we've been eating) and all those baby seedlings are Arugula.

It's 8 weeks until the last frost! (Hear that, snow??) It's time to sow a few things in the grow room. Today I planted 12 Aster Opus, 6 Pink Catmint and 4 Cayenne Peppers, all from Pinetree Seeds.
I only need 2 Cayenne Peppers, but I have someone to take the extras if they all succeed.

The Catmint will form a nice mounded plant with pink flowers. It's a perennial. It will be outside the garden in our flower beds. I think it will attract pollinators and while it's a mint, it will not get out of control. The cats will enjoy it too!
Pink Catmint - Pinetree Garden Seeds - Flowers  - 1
Pink Catmint - Photo from Pinetree Seeds

 ASTER - OPUS - Pinetree Garden Seeds - Flowers
Aster Opus - Photo from Pinetree Seeds
The  Aster Opus is also for our flower bed. I think it is so pretty!   It is an annual Aster. I am going to plant it in front of the Purple Millet I am hoping to grow. The Aster Opus is supposed to form bushy 2 1/2 foot plants with lots of stems of white flowers with a faint pint tip.  I am envisioning a hedge of them. I think it will be stunning!

While I was working in the grow room, I noticed that all the onions in the front of the tray were shorter than those in the back.

Then I noticed that there were onions out of the tray and realized that the cats were chewing on the onions!
I have to keep the door to the grow room open, because at the moment there is no heat in that room (we are remodeling our bathroom and all the heaters in the front of the house were on the same breaker! ) I over planted onions anyway, so I will be fine. I just didn't expect that!

Also in the grow room, I am chitting my potatoes. These are Red Norland and Russet that I bought locally. I have more potatoes coming from a seed company soon.

Lastly, I thought I'd give you a peek at the free package of Mesclun I received from Botanical Interests. I planted them in a tray, hoping to harvest a early salad or two from inside the house. If this works, I may plant salads all through the winter! 💚

That's all that is happening this week. Next week I will be planting my peppers! (Indoors, of course. )
Let me know what you are doing in your gardens!



10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)

































Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hard Work for a little Problem

Our weather forecast for today and tomorrow is wind and heavy rain. I'll be in the grow room trimming my leeks and onions and planting eggplants. I am trying these this year.
I have never had good luck with Eggplant. Usually my problem is flea beetles. But then I learned that Eggplant is self pollinating, so it can remain under row cover and be protected from flea beetles and other pests.

I tried the row cover last year, but a pest got under the row cover. Actually, under the eggplant.  One morning my eggplants were blooming and looking healthy. The next day, the entire plant was gone. Gone into a hole. The vole got it.

 Moles are destructive in that they make tunnels and disturb plants roots. But they only eat grubs and worms. Moles are larger than mice and have that star-shaped nose. 

Voles, or field mice, are herbivores. They eat grain, seeds and pretty much anything else that is plant related.  They are so much worse for a gardener. Voles look like mice, only they are a little bit larger, have a more rounded head and a short tail, like the farmer's wife chopped a mouse's tail in half with a carving knife.
 
Voles tunnel underground or use mole tunnels. They come up at night and leave a small dime sized hole as evidence. Last year we tried different methods to rid ourselves of voles. Hav-a-heart Traps failed. Mouse traps in an over-turned pot over the hole failed. Vole deterrent pellets failed (but smelled really good). Castor oil failed. So we began the arduous task of removing all the dirt from our raised beds and installing hardware cloth. This is not only a lot of work, it's costly.
 We did quite a few beds last year and took advantage of the occasional nice days we had in February to do a few more.  All the dirt gets removed, hardware cloth is stapled all around, leaving no openings for the voles. This has worked in all the boxes we have done this in. My hubby wonders why the voles don't climb up and over the boxes. I am not sure why, but they don't.  We are using 1/2 inch hardware cloth that is 19 gauge. Voles can chew through thinner wire, so you have to be careful of the gauge. They can fit through 1 inch hardware cloth so you don't want to use that. We get our hardware cloth at Lowes.  As you can see, it doesn't fit the boxes. We piece it together so we don't waste any of it.

Yesterday we started a second bed and ran out of the hardware cloth. This morning I found that the voles had tried to get in. (They found the edge of the hardware cloth and did get in. They are after birdseed that the birds have been flinging from our back yard feeder. The feeder needs to be moved!)
The voles are costing us a fortune. We are going to reconfigure our larger beds because to vole proof from the edges of the bed would involve digging down almost three feet to install hardware cloth to prevent them from getting into the 8 x 8 beds. So we will be ripping out the two year old beds, building new beds with hardware cloth attached and reinstalling them.  So much work!!!

Hellebore in bloom in February - voles do not eat them - but neither do humans

Daffodils coming up behind puppy - voles don't eat them - but neither do humans.
 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cooking from the Garden in February

Another rainy day. What a great day to cook from the garden! Of course, very little is actually growing in the garden in February, but I have stored things from last year's harvest. So today I am making Spaghetti Squash Lasagna from the Garden!!!

 I am basing my lasagna on Kalyn Denny's recipe, which I love, and which I strongly recommend you try. The link to the recipe on her blog, Kalyn's Kitchen, is here. Her recipe is low-carb, Keto, low-glycemic, and gluten-free.  No guarantees on mine. She has the most amazing low-carb and low-glycemic recipes. I highly recommend checking out her site.

Lasagna is such a lovely treat on a cold rainy day, don't you agree?  I took out a spaghetti squash I had grown last year from my pantry. This isn't a large squash, but we are only two people, so it didn't need to be. 


I cut it in half (if you put the whole squash in the microwave for 5 minutes, it is easier to cut in half), and brushed it with olive oil; and an Italian Herb mix. I have always used the store bought Italian Herb mix for this recipe, but since I was cooking from the garden, I pulled out my preserved garden herbs.
I had dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried sage and frozen basil leaves. I chopped up the basil leaves, chopped some garlic (my home grown garlic has long been eaten) and mixed them with the dried herbs with a mortar and pestle.
I have to say, the basil smelled amazing. These were just leaves - no special treatment. As they thawed they got soggy, but the flavor was so fresh. I will preserve them again like this.
I used about a third of my homemade Italian herb mix on the squash and popped them into a 400 degree oven to cook.

I then browned a package of sausage. Kalyn uses turkey sausage, but I had a bunch of Premio Sausage I stocked up on during a great sale at my grocers, so I used that. I removed them from their casings and browned them while occasionally smashing them to break them up.
When they were nicely browned I added a jar of vegetable sauce I had frozen last summer. Vegetable sauce is made from not only tomatoes, but zucchini and any other vegetables that are being harvested from the garden when you make it. The flavor is a bit different from tomato sauce, but still very yummy!
I freeze a lot in mason jars. I have never had a problem with one breaking. I could have used another cup of sauce, but this is what I had, so it was added to the (drained) sausage, along with 1/3 of the Italian herb mix, an additional garlic clove and more basil leaves.
This cooked until the liquid had evaporated down, about 30 minutes.
While the sauce and squash were cooking, I did my dishes and was looking at my cold frame and thought "Why not add some spinach to the lasagna?" So I went out in the rain and harvested about 2 cups of fresh from the garden spinach.
The cold frame is a new project and I will talk about it once I figure the whole thing out. Mistakes have been made, but I did grow some spinach!

When the sauce was ready, the spaghetti squash was also done cooking.
I took a fork and scraped the flesh to get the "spaghetti". This is so much fun to do!
In a small bowl I mixed the remaining 1/3 Italian Herb mix with about two cups of ricotta cheese and two eggs. I also shredded about 2 cups of mozzarella cheese and about a half cup of pecorino-romano cheese.

I sprayed the inside of a baking dish with olive oil spray, then layered spaghetti squash, sauce, ricotta cheese mix, spinach, mozzarella, pecorino-romano and repeated the layers. (You may think my dish in the top photo is small and you are right. My hubby does not like squash. I make him a duplicate lasagna subbing out the squash for ready to cook noodles. I keep feeding him squash. He actually said he didn't mind the butternut squash I made the other night. I WILL convert him. Someday.)

The lasagna (s) bake at 375 for about 40-45 minutes. It was so good! And we have left-overs for lunch for the next few days! 
Spaghetti squash lasagna. Give it a try!



Friday, February 23, 2018

Spring Teaser

This isn't a Friday Favorite, but it could be. This week we had snow on Saturday night and then a few days later we had two days of weather in the 70's.  A Spring teaser of  70+ degree weather in February is always a favorite!!

This week is 10 weeks before our last frost in our area.

I took advantage of the lovely weather to plant Celery and Summer Savory seeds in seed trays on my potting bench. No mess in the house to clean up!
 I planted Utah Celery from Pinetree Seeds  and Summer Savory from Botanical Interests .

I'm new to Botanical Interests and I am very impressed with their service, their seeds and their packaging.  You can see on the Pinetree Seed package all the information they give you. (I love Pinetree Seeds and mean no disrespect to them - they are a great seed company!) The Botanical Interests seed package has so much more information including detailed instructions on when and how to start seeds, special germination instructions, a description of the variety, what it is used for, a plant tag and that's just on the outside! Inside the pack they have the history of the plant, botanical facts, recipes, how to avoid diseases and pests - it's impressive!  All their seeds are GMO free and untreated. They were offering free shipping during February - bonus! My order arrived quickly and included a free pack of Mesclun seeds!  I'm going to plant them in a flat under my lights and see if I can grow a salad or two indoors!
 I have never grown celery before. From what I've read, they can be difficult. I have memories of riding through Lancaster County years ago and seeing the Amish gardens with white paper wrapped around the celery to blanch it. Utah is supposed to be self blanching, but I have also read the taste is more celery like if the plants don't blanch. It's an experiment. We'll see how it goes.

I planted twelve celery plants and twelve summer savory. They need light to germinate so they went into my grow room under the lights.

Of course I got out in the garden. I have heard it is damaging to the soil to prepare it too early, but I still pulled out weeds, cleaned up my Asparagus bed and added compost and bone meal, moved some dirt and had very dirty hands for two days - I loved it! 

February came back with rainy cool temperatures so I took care of my leek seedlings in the grow room.
These leeks were planted January 22 and were about 6 inches tall and floppy. Leeks and onions have a hard time getting rid of their seeds; those are the black dots on the tops of the leeks in the photo above. I took scissors and gave them a haircut, cutting them all to 3 inches tall and cutting off any seeds in those smaller than 3". This will help them put more growth into the base so they thicken up and get strong. They, and the onions I planted, will get regular haircuts to keep them strong.
As a bonus, the leek clippings can be used as a garnish in eggs, potatoes or other dishes. It's like my first harvest of 2018 😉!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Favorites - Ebates

Welcome to Friday Favorites, the day in which I share something I use and love

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Do you shop on-line? Who doesn't these days?

I love shopping on-line! It takes me about a half-hour to reach a store from where I live, plus time spent walking around to see if you can find the thing you need and a half hour drive home.  Of course before you find what you need you've added five or six things you didn't need to your cart! What a waste of time and money!

The majority of my non-food shopping occurs on-line. And before I start on-line, I start at Ebates! 

Are you familiar with Ebates? Ebates gives you money for shopping on-line. Really! No catch.  Stores give Ebates a commission for sending their members to their websites, and Ebates shares it with their members. 

Here is my latest Ebates "Big Fat Check":

Yes, $53.57 just for doing my on-line shopping through Ebates! Checks are issued once a quarter. This check is bigger than most because I booked my trip to Paris through Travelocity which was offering cash back through Ebates. All prices being equal, why not get some money back?
There is an App for iOS & Android that offers special App only cash back deals as well as an App for
iPhone, Android and iPad which also offer special deals. These Apps will remind you when you start to shop online that there's a Cash Back deal at the store you are shopping at! It couldn't be any easier!  (Amazon almost always has deals!)

You can even earn Cash Back when you shop in-store at selected stores!

Some gardening supplies companies are also on Ebates. You can use this link to see the cash back amounts for Burpees seeds. If you were ordering from them anyway, why not earn cash back? 

I am not being paid to endorse Ebates, or any of my Friday Favorites, but if you are going to shop on-line anyway, make money doing it! It you are interested in joining Ebates, click on this link ebates/DWHITT and you will get a $10.00 bonus (if you spend $25.00) and I will get a bonus too!

Ebates - I highly recommend it! Try it and you'll see!




Thursday, February 15, 2018

Meet Our New Puppy!




Meet Chase. He is an 8 week old Border Collie we picked up this morning from NelsonBorderCollies. He is a joy! We are so in love with him already.

His big sister Teagan is so excited to have a playmate! They already discovered they both enjoy digging. 😟 They also had a game of chase (Teagan runs faster than any dog I've ever seen, so Chase gave up pretty quickly), and several supervised doggy play sessions.
 I'm sure Chase will be  a wonderful addition to our family!