Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

~ chamomile ~

~ finally some pea flowers ~

~ finally some pea flowers ~

~ finally a pea ~

~ radish in flower ~

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Potatoes in a Bucket Experiment - Hiccups -

I decided to try potatoes in buckets this year as I really didn't want to give up a veggie bed to years of digging out wandering potatoes. Well, today I had to do something with those buckets as I could see the plants were dying or dead. What went wrong?

Usually I take copious amounts of notes & photos for just such a case as today - not so with the potatoes! Shame on me...

So I dumped them out onto a piece of plastic - how easy would a harvest have been!! Precisely why I used 5 gallon buckets!

1) The soil was wet - really wet, practically a swamp at the bottom of the bucket. And I wasn't watering these things lately. Reason: holes were not large enough & I had forgotten to ensure the plastic shavings were cleared of the holes. Improper drainage is easily fixed with larger holes & maybe a few more...

2) Very few potatoes - actually, 1 or 2 on the plus side of none. Reason: I planted whole potatoes instead of cutting them up into smaller pieces which forces the plant to produce more potatoes. I had also not bothered to buy seed potatoes because this was after all, an experiment. I didn't even make note of what kind I planted - but looking at those 2 little wimpy 'taters, I'd say they were either Yukon Gold or white potatoes.

So, the soil is 'airing' out so that I can mix it up with some manure for replanting & the buckets will have better drainage drilled into them so that I can possibly re-try my potatoes in a bucket experiment.

Now, if only summer weather would come to the coast...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sorrel Pesto

While a lot of things in my veggie gardens aren't producing much (so far), my sorrel plants have exploded. Last year I thought I would try this plant - not sure if I would call it an herb, since it's not something I would add to my salads in any great quantity. It's got an amazing lemon flavour & tang - the first time I tried it, I shoved a whole leaf into my mouth & was puckered for an hour!

I had to find a way to eat it - or rather, a way to convince my husband to eat it...

So I found some recipes for sorrel pesto on the internet & started experimenting. The recipe I finally made through a bit of trial & error & mixing & matching has resulted in a wonderful (if not brightly coloured) pesto that is great on fish (particularly salmon), great with crackers & quite nice with eggs & toast in the mornings.

This spring I had to divide the plants that grew last year because I didn't fully understand how they grew - and grow they do! They have a long tap root, so need a bit of depth in the garden beds. They also handle multiple harvests well, so you don't need too many plants. After I divided them up, I do believe I have about 30 of them, spread around my veggie beds - mostly in corners. I already had to cut them all back this spring as they loved the wet weather & I didn't have a blender in which to make the pesto. After today's harvest, they will take about a month to recover & produce a new batch of leaves for harvesting. The seed heads are pretty, but I'd rather not have them fully taking over my gardens, so I cut them all back too.
This is the second amount I cut today for processing. The leaves are a bit large & tougher than they should be, but the blender can handle it.
My newest tool in the kitchen is a magic bullet - funny little device, but it worked wonders for the pesto & I'm looking forward to trying more things with it.

I rip out the ribs from the leaves, give them a quick spin in the salad spinner & rip them into smaller chunks. I stuffed the container, added some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, whole pepper corns & garlic & then started blending it up. I usually add a few more handfuls of sorrel leaves & taste the mix as I'm going along. It's lemony with a bit of salt & garlic. I opted out of adding toasted pine nuts this year as I really don't think that it's necessary & they are a bit pricey (& hard to come by in our little store).
End result is this bright coloured, very smooth & creamy pesto. I store them in baby food jars because that's about the right amount for most dishes serving 2 to 4. I might add a bit of mayo when cooking with it, or sour cream for a dip. I'm leaving my jars (got 9 today) in the fridge over night & will double check the flavour before popping them in the deep freeze. It lasts in the fridge for 3 or 4 days, although I have been known to forget it was there for a week or 2 & haven't noticed it turning off.

I actually prefer sorrel pesto to basil pesto now that I've found this!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

~ Sultan Splendor bearded iris ~

~ Sultan Splendor bearded iris ~

If this is not the correct name for this iris, please let me know!! I've been searching for years now...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Things to do in the June garden

'One cannot help but be in awe when
contemplating the mysteries of eternity,
of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.
It is enough if one tries to comprehend
a little of this mystery every day.'
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German physicist and Nobel Prize winner

  • MULCH ASPARAGUS generously after harvesting stops around the middle of the month. Do the same for rhubarb plants as their season of harvest winds down around the end of the month. Remove any rhubarb flowerspikes that develop. {This wet spring has not been kind to my rhubarb - most of the stalks were soft but they do seem to be perking up with a bit of compost & mulch. Hope they recover for a harvest next year}
  • Sustain the beauty of the garden in June by WEEDING AND DEADHEADING. Remove weeds before they can form and shed seeds. {mulch, mulch, mulch!}
  • Continue THINNING seeded vegetable plantings. {again, the wet spring has been a disaster for most of my cool weather veggies but it's too early to say how later sowings will react}
  • PULL SOIL AROUND POTATO PLANTS to prevent any tubers near the surface from turning green (and poisonous) with exposure to sunlight. This procedure is called hilling or earthing up. As early potatoes begin to die back, reduce watering.
  • Finish PLANTING SUMMER FLOWERS in beds and containers.
  • Plant SUCCESSION SALAD CROPS of lettuce, radish and spinach in a lightly shaded location with a cool, moist soil.
  • Remove dead foliage from SPRING-FLOWERING BULBS.
  • Finish filling hanging baskets, patio pots, window boxes and planters with flowers.
  • Keep COMPOST PILES dampened, and well aerated or turned for speedy decomposition. {My compost tumbler was emptied last month & is in the process of being filled for a late summer batch}
  • Remove suckers from staked TOMATOES. {If your tomatoes are in a greenhouse, make sure to open the door on hot, sunny days to invite pollinating insects in to aid with pollination}
  • With the arrival of warm weather, MOW THE LAWN HIGH to protect the roots and crowns of the grass plants from burning. A thick and healthy, unscalped lawn also makes life awkward for weeds.
  • SOW FLOWERING KALE AND CABBAGE for colorful plants this fall and winter. {Mix these in flower beds for an interesting twist}
  • CUT CHIVE CLUMPS down to a few inches from the ground, a small section of the clump at a time, to keep fresh, tender new growth coming along. {Chive blossoms make wonderful additions to salads or use them all in a vinegar for use in winter salad dressings}
  • Pick off rose leaves with BLACK SPOT OR POWDERY MILDEW, and apply a sulphur-based fungicide.
  • Allow one or two runners to develop from the most productive plants in the STRAWBERRY PATCH. 
I find June to be a transition time from high activity to relaxing moments just observing & sitting with your plants. I harvested my first crop of lavendar blossoms yesterday, which not only re-shapes the bush, but allows for a second harvest later in the summer. The same with the chives. I try to harvest my chive plants one per week so that I have a longer supply of chive leaves. The leaves do not store well, but the blossoms are fun to eat. 

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Soggy Spring Report

    Cannot believe it's almost the middle of June! I keep waiting for proper spring weather to come our way, but it doesn't look like we are going to get much of it. I keep hearing reports that our summer is going to be hot & dry - but I'm not holding my breath.

    I managed to get my veggie beds seeded in decent time this year, but with all the rain & cool weather we've had, I don't think much will happen. The radishes are not producing much other than flowers, the carrots refused to come up, the beets are almost a write off & something is eating all my bean seedlings - even though I spread them out to 3 different beds. The peas have yet to flower but at least the deer haven't mowed them down.
     ~ unhappy beans ~

    ~ bolting radish ~

    But I do have a 'happy place' in all of this - my greenhouse! While it may be a bit crowded in there at the moment, I'm very excited to see that this particular project is going along very well. 
    My 4 tomato plants have decided to go wild ever since I gave them a hit of epsom salt & on most days I will open the door for a few hours to allow bugs - bees for the most part - to enter & help with pollinating the flowers. The lettuce really needs to be harvested more often than I do - I've given away so much fresh greens this spring & it looks like I need to make another large salad again tonight. The dill & borage along the left side are pretty much hidden by the tomatoes & the calendula along the right edge will become visible once I harvest more lettuce. 

    I have basil in pots & yesterday I hung a piece of black landscape fabric in front of them as it looked like the leaves were being burnt a little by the sun (when we do get it, that is). Last year I had the basil sheltered with the fabric & they seemed to enjoy it, so we shall see how they do again this year.
    This is my first tomato!!

    I have 2 yellow zuchinni plants: one in a pot in the greenhouse & one out in the veggie bed. This one - the outdoor one has miraculously been missed by the slugs who ate all the marigolds I had planted around it. Last year I let the zukers grow too large on the plant & will harvest them while they are still only about 6 to 8 inches big - we'll see if there is a difference in texture/flavour.

    Currently my flowers are going through their purple phase & these bearded iris are the highlights of my colour purple. Wish I could remember their name... I've also got purple lupins, chives, lavendar, thyme & blue flag iris (which looks purple). 

    Well, the sun is actually shining, so I must run out & talk with my plants to see what's going on...

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    West Coast Gourmet Dinner - for one

    I can't believe the first week of June is almost past! I have just flipped over my calendar & have so much to do now that the sunshine has returned! I had heard that in May we had only 9 days of no rain - not necessarily days with sunshine, just days without precipitation. What a soggy month!

    For the last 2 1/2 days I've been frantically trying to catch up on all the yardening projects that have fallen behind or become over grown. It might take me a few more days to catch up on photos & stories. But for today, I decided to have myself a gourmet dinner - west coast style.

    It's so wonderful to have fresh ingredients just steps from my kitchen & since I just purchased some fresh clams, I thought I would have a herb salad with steamed clams. The lettuce is threatening to take over my tomato patch in the greenhouse, so while the bowl looks really full, it's only a fraction of what I need to eat!

    Fresh herbs: fennel, parsley, sage, rosemary, basil, dill, thyme, chive blossoms & a sorrel leaf (very tangy).

    In the pot with the clams are a couple sprigs of rosemary, some lovage and French tarragon along with some herb salt.
    In no time at all the clams are steamed (no white wine garlic butter sauce tonight!) and the salad is ready to eat. I added some calendula petals for a touch of colour and a nice tangy flavour. I dressed it up with some berry vinegrette & a glass of peach wine (yes, with ice cubes).

    Too bad my husband wasn't here to enjoy this with me!