The Potager

The Potager

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Garlic Update

I was so excited to see that the garlic I planted in the fall (Garlic Planting Time!) has sprouted and grown through the mulch I put down.
You may recall that I used organic garlic from the grocery store. There is a whole world of different garlics out there that we don't see on our grocers shelf. I may be planting some of those this fall if this experiment is successful. I find it so exciting when I try something I read about and it works!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winter Sowing

There's not enough sunny windows in my home, so I was very excited to learn about winter sowing at this site:

The idea is that seeds will germinate when they are supposed to, but by creating a little "greenhouse" you help bump up the time a little. The seeds that are used to the outdoors will be stronger because they haven't been babied in the house. Sounds good to me!

I started by cutting four water jugs in half. My daughter says I am a water snob. I am. I will not drink our well water. Thus all the Poland Spring jugs.

I used a fondue fork to poke drainage holes in the bottom of each jug.

I then added a few inches of potting soil and watered them well.

The drainage holes worked.

My sink was a mess.

I hope dirt doesn't clog drains.

I decided to try flower seeds: Lavender, Delphinium and Echinacea. These are all perennials. If they don't grow this way, I can just plant them the traditional way.

In fact I planted two of them the traditional way because it was time to do so according to the seed package. It will be interesting to see how the winter sown Lavender and Delphinium compare to the house sown.

After sowing, I wrote the names of the flowers on the jugs and taped the jugs shut. I put the tops on the water jugs because it is supposed to rain/snow tonight. I will take them off in fair weather to vent the mini greenhouses.

They are in the Potager where they can get full sun. I am not sure how they will survive intense wind like we had last night, but I guess I could always move them somewhere more sheltered in that event.

This is not a plant and forget thing, like the fall planted garlic (see post about that tomorrow!).
I have to check them to make sure they don't dry out and are properly vented. I'm so excited to see if this works.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hello Baby!

After only three days, the broccoli came up.

I moved it upstairs to the spare room.

I was looking at grow light set ups in the Gardener's Supply Catalog.

Very expensive.

Oh well, people have been using windows for years.

Grow towards the light little broccoli! I'll turn you around tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Clever Hubby!

Hubs was cleaning out his garage and found an old push broom. Did he trash it? No! He made this:

How clever! Our yard is a mass of mud right now from the melting snow. A shoe scraper is just what we need to keep the dirt outside where it belongs!
I love his little inventions!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's not over yet!

We woke up to a bit of snow today. Just when you think it might be over! Ah, well, it's 5 weeks until spring!
Yesterday I planted some broccoli and red onion seeds and tucked them in my kitchen cabinet to germinate.  I've never had luck with broccoli, but I always had started it from seed in the garden. I'm hoping the head start helps me having some broccoli to harvest this spring.

Wintering Over

Last year, we purchased two planters at Lowes to decorate the patio for my daughter's graduation party. The tag said that all the plants were annuals. All the flowers died off by October, but the Spike plants still looked good, so I placed them in the shed and forgot all about them. Our shed is not only non heated, but has a few broken windows, so it's not at all warm, but last weekend when I went into the shed to grab some gardening tools, I found the spikes alive and well.
I gave them a small drink of water (the first they've had since October) and closed the door again.
Tough plants, just like their names.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Organizing my Seeds

On Friday I received my membership packs of seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. A happy day for me! The Hudson Valley Seed Library, , is an organization that is dedicated to saving regionally-adapted seeds. They also offer gift packs featuring works by New York artists. I think it is very cool to be able to have plants in my garden grown from seeds collected by farmers in the New York area. (Yes, I'm in New Jersey, but New York is our neighbor.) If I am able, I can collect seeds from the plants I grow and return them to the library for credit on next year's seeds. How cool is that!

As I've said before, my eyes are bigger than my garden (and my ability) but the sheer number of seed packs I have accumulated is beginning to over whelm me. I needed a system!

I had this cute little basket that was not serving any purpose at the moment. I cut pieces of card stock and labeled them and organized my seeds!

Now I no longer have to dig through my piles of seeds to find what I need to plant.

I also copied diagrams of my garden so I could plan and made sure I was companion planting well. 

If dreaming and planning were all it took to have a great garden, mine would be great!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Time in the garden today!

There were two days in the 60's this week. I work full time. I missed them.
But though it is only in the high 40's and very windy, I couldn't help myself, I had to get into the garden!

The wind has pushed a lot of my leaf mulch off the soil. The soil is loose and not frozen.
I know it's only February, but the seed packet phrase " as soon as the soil can be worked" echoed in my head.
I'll wait a few more weeks, but it's not easy.

The fencing came away from the wood in this section and the wind filled it with the leaves. I'll have to get that fixed before the critters discover a way into the garden.

Two warm days and the rose bushes have turned green again.

I am  going to have to trim them in a couple of weeks.

I guess I'll be cutting all this healthy looking green off.

I hope that's the right thing to do. I'll have to trust the instructions that came with the roses.

There were weeds coming up already! So I weeded the garden! It felt so good to be out there that I didn't even mind.

I may not have that same attitude toward weeding in August.
Just so you know.

Freshly weeded bed. This will be one half of our strawberry bed in a few months.

Yes, I loaded that trug tub with weeds and old plants today. There was a lot of mess left over from the fall.

This little seedling is the cilantro I planted last fall. I uncovered his mulch bed just to see what was happening. I tucked him back in. Hopefully, he'll grow early and give me lots of lovely Cilantro before he turns into a coriander plant. I have yet to find a use for coriander, but I grow it really well each year!

The carrots I thought had wintered over were only on the edges of the bed. Not enough to dedicate the whole bed to when I do my spring planting.

I didn't peek at the garlic.

In honor of President's Day, a quote from Thomas Jefferson (whose garden I hope to someday visit):

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Visitor

Last night as I checked on my seedlings before bed, I found a garden visitor amongst the seedlings -
A little lady bug wandering around looking for bad things to eat. I would like to think that there are no bad things to eat in my spare bedroom where the seedlings are growing, but I was delighted and happy to see her just the same. I realize that this is the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle and that many people think of them as pests because of they invade homes and are stinky when threatened or crushed (very similar to the stink bug invasions everyone seems to be dealing with this year!), but unlike stink bugs, these lady beetles act similarly to their cute little red cousins - they devour aphids!
So the little lady beetle is welcome to spend the rest of the winter protecting my seedlings. If she survives, I'll release her in the spring.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A gift!

 My husband was offered a load of decking wood that was going to be thrown away.

He loaded it into his van and brought it home and this spring it will be made into the annex to the Potager.

The rest of you can get hot house or imported roses and a box of Chocolates for Valentine's Day. The promise of a garden to come is true romance to me!

I have been longing to have a garden to the side of the Potager where I could grow perennial herbs and flowers without using up the fenced in areas that I need for deer protection.

Deer don't seem to eat many herbs and perennial flowers, so I am hoping that this annex can be fence free, or at least have a low fence.

I'm thinking of chives, thyme, oregano and mint, along with lavender,  Bee Balm, coneflowers, foxglove and daisies.
And some cat mint for the kitties, and the bird bath I got for Christmas for the birds.

And maybe a chair or two for relaxing amongst the blooms and scents.

Nothing says " I love you"  like a dream of gardens to come!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ah, there you are!

I love coming home from work to daylight! The days are getting longer and the snow is melting from the Potager.

I took a walk around the Potager to see if winter did any damage and found some signs of life instead!

This is the greek oregano. I wonder if it's still usable?

I need to move this plant this spring. It is from the mint family and it looks like it could take over the whole garden!

Parsley is a biennial which most people grow as an annual. I wasn't planning on leaving it there, but the first snow came right after Christmas and it's been under snow ever since. Some of it still looks edible. If it perks up this weekend when the weather warms up, I may try it!

Surprise! The carrots I planted in the fall never grew much, so I experimented with wintering them over to see if they'd grow again in the spring.
They are still alive, peeking out from under their mulch!

The rose bushes came with instructions not to trim them until early spring.
That enabled me to see dried rose buds against the snow.
How cute!

I love these little reminders that there's only 38 days until Spring!

However, the sun is setting and it's only 29 degrees out, so I'll leave Heartstrings to faithfully guard the garden and get back inside for some warm soup!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Onions and scallions

 On January 22 I planted spanish yellow onions, evergreen white scallions and red baron scallions (from old seeds).
Seeds don't need light to germinate, but they do need warmth. I placed my trays of seeds in a kitchen cabinet that has a kick-space heater under it. It kept them nice and toasty.
I covered the trays with plastic wrap to keep in the moisture.
Smokey was a curious cat!

The plastic wrap acted like a green house and I never had to water them while it was on.

I checked them daily anyway to be sure!

Three days later I had my first sprouts popping up.

I then moved them upstairs to the spare bedroom.

After a few more had sprouted, I removed the plastic wrap.

Someday, I want to get a light, like these , so my seedlings will grow up straight.
Even though they are in a sunny window, the angle of the sun in the winter doesn't give them enough light.
They grow more on the shady side and lean to the light, so every day I have to turn the trays around.

These are the spanish onions. The little seed heads look like cute little hats!

The evergreen scallions are doing well, but the red baron didn't come up at all.
I could have saved myself some trouble by doing a germination test on the old seeds or by reading about onion seeds.
I would have learned that onion seeds have to be bought fresh each year. They don't have a shelf life.
Ten years from now, this will be known to me, but now, it is all a learning experience.

I got my back ordered red onions in the mail the other day. Only the ones I ordered were out of stock, so they sent me a substitute.  It's an heirloom onion called Southport Red Globe. I'll try to get that one started this weekend. It feels good to be starting some gardening!
One of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a spade and a package of garden seeds.
-   Dan Bennett

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Organic foods, Menu Plan Monday

Hubby went shopping with me. I sent him for organic lettuce. He came back with a big healthy looking head. Sadly, I knew it wasn't organic because of the size and healthiness of the head. I took him back to the produce department and showed him the sad looking organic lettuce.  Lettuce is not in season in New Jersey this time of year. I'd rather do without it and eat seasonally appropriate or frozen when perfectly ripe organic vegetables, but hubby loves his salad. He fell off the organic bandwagon and bought the better looking head of lettuce.
Aside from knowing how bad organic lettuce looks in the winter, another way to tell if something is organic is to look at the UPC label. Conventional produce has a four digit number beginning with a 3 or 4. Organic produce has a 5 digit number that begins with a 9, for example 94011 (organic bananas, ) And a scary thing to note is that genetically engineered food has a 5 digit number that begins with an 8.
Why eat Organic? Well, take that healthy stalk of celery that you decide to munch on for a low-calorie snack. No matter how well you wash it, you are ingesting 67 pesticides along with the celery. Yuk! Pesticides can build up in your body. We are only now beginning to see how these pesticides negatively affect our health.
Check out the list of the twelve worst foods to eat non-organically here: The Dirty Dozen
Organic food is more expensive and, out of season, not as attractive (just don't buy bad looking food!) But in season, it not only has less pesticides, it delivers more nutrition than non-organic food. This is because it is getting it's minerals from natural sources in the soil, instead of being grown in depleted soil which is chemically enhanced to sustain life.  It is more expensive, but as you cut out foods that are processed and have additives, you will find it all balances out in the grocery bill. As long as you don't take hubby shopping with you!
So this is my plan for the week, linked up to
Monday - Shopping Day, Rotisserie chicken (not too good this week)
Tuesday - Chicken Soup made from the left over chicken
Wednesday - Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Thursday - Oven Fried Chicken, Brussel Sprouts and Potatoes
Friday - Another attempt at a whole wheat pizza crust, last week's was not good
Saturday - Steak and Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans
Sunday - Spaghetti with meat sauce.