Wednesday, April 30, 2008


We had almost three inches of rain in the last two days. The dark weather was bad for my transplants, but the rain and cool weather was wonderful for the bok choi and the lettuce in the garden. I swear they doubled in size in the last two days. Now their leaves are touching and I’ll get to pick some to thin it out in about a week.

Most of my indoor transplants are spending the day outside in the garden under a plastic row cover. This is the place where my tomatoes/eggplant/peppers will go and the ground is covered in black plastic to warm it up more. With the clear plastic row cover over it, it heats up very quickly if there is any sun at all, and keeps the gusty wind from whipping the little plants around. The high today should be in the mid 50s but under the plastic it will probably be in the mid 70s. Of course the best part of getting them outside is the bright sunshine.

The rain also brought out all the dandelions in the lawn. My immediate neighbors don’t put nasty chemicals on their lawn so in the spring yellow blankets our lawns. I know a lot of people hate dandelions, but I think they are another of the beautiful cheery flowers of spring. I first fell in love with dandelions when I was five. We had moved to a new house and below the house next to the road was a break in the trees and a patch of dandelions. They carpeted the whole little area open to the sun. I loved seeing them every spring. Yes they are weeds in my garden and I do pull them out of my garden bed however I find them fairly easily controlled if they are pulled when they flower. I don’t use those dandelion forks. They have never worked for me. I use a thin trowel and loosen the soil a couple inches around the base of the plant and as far down as the trowel will go then I yank it up. Most of the root usually comes up. As long as you do it when the plant flowers and you get most of the root, it doesn’t come back. Of course if you let the plant establish itself over a couple of years, it is much harder to get rid of.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grow Lights

Many years ago I used to grow all my transplants in the laundry room. Dirt and clean laundry don’t go that well together, but the laundry room has a 4’ wide window on the south side of the house. OK south east side if you want to be picky. In the winter and early spring it is bright sunshine. As time progresses and the oaks leaf out it is shaded. I had built a four shelf wooden monstrosity that sat against the window and had fluorescent lights on the undersides of the shelves. I loved growing my own transplants. As I got busier (translate this as – when I went back to work after the kids grew up a bit) it became a chore and when we redid the laundry room my husband looked at it and said it was time to go. I really hadn’t used it much in the last five years. I didn’t complain about losing it.

Now of course I still want to grow a few seedlings indoors. Currently they sit in a very sunny window but it still doesn’t provide enough light. My seedlings are a bit leggy, and after two days of very dark rainy weather, they are just getting worse. So I brought out a goose neck lamp and put it over the few little transplants I have. It is a small lamp that really doesn’t cover all the little seedlings. It certainly won’t once the eggplant finally germinates, but it works better than nothing.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Rain Starts

As I headed off to the gym today, it had not yet started to rain. When I got out it was cold, windy and wet; definitely time to make soup. So I stopped at the store on the way home and bought leeks and potatoes. I wish they were leeks from my garden, but those leeks are only about four inches tall right now. I suppose I could wish for potatoes from my garden too, but since I don’t plan on planting any this year, that is not going to happen. Maybe next year. I do love new potatoes.

Leek and potato soup is so easy to make - at least my version is, which is simple but a bit different than most. It takes about 20 minutes, start to finish. For me it is lunch for two days; but you could share it with someone; or just horde it for yourself as I do.

Daphne’s Leek and Potato Soup
2 medium-small yellow potatoes
2 leeks
olive oil
1/4c white wine (optional)
2 Chicken Apple Sausages (from Trader Joe’s, I can’t vouch for another brand)
2 cups chicken stock
white pepper (black is fine if you have no white)
Cut the potatoes into ½-¾ “ cubes and boil for 15 mins. While the potatoes are boiling, wash and cut up the leeks (use the whitish parts not the tough green) into slices and sauté in olive oil for about 8 mins. Slice up the sausage and toss it into the leeks. Cook for a couple of mins. Deglaze the pan with the wine, then toss in the chicken stock and pepper and bring to a boil. Rinse and add the potatoes, since they should be done about now. And enjoy.

Now you may notice there is no salt in the recipe. Usually I make this recipe with store bought chicken broth, and store bought already has plenty of salt. If I use my own, I will salt to taste. It is so much better with homemade.

Yumm. Soup is perfect for a cold rainy day, and boy is it raining. I swear we have already gotten an inch of rain. I need to put a rain gauge in my garden, so that I’ll know. I’ve said that to myself for years, but I always forget to get one when I’m in the gardening store. I get distracted by all plants and seed packets.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Waiting for Rain

The garden is quiet this morning - very still and hushed. The clouds are moving in and we wait for rain. Two to three inches of rain are predicted for tomorrow and Tuesday. That is a lot of rain, but the land is very dry. We haven’t had a drop of rain for two weeks now.

Most years I plant peas early in one batch and then get too many peas that I can’t eat, and in not too long they are gone. This year I decided to plant half my peas as normal and half on May 1st. If the weather is very hot they won’t grow well, but if the weather is cool then I will have peas for a very long time. But because of the forecast, I’m put them in the soil today. The rain will water them for me so I won’t have to. And just for good measure I put in some more radishes and the turnips I got from Pinetree. Now I wait for rain.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Joy of Procrastination

Last year some of my friends and I biked over to Verrill Farm in Concord, MA for their Corn and Tomato Festival. We ate tons of corn and tomatoes, but the best part of it was getting to taste about hmm 30 or so different varieties of tomatoes. That’s a lot of tomatoes. I really tried to remember my favorites. I really, really did. But sadly all but one name escapes me now but that one was my favorite of the batch – Sun Gold, a beautiful little orange-gold cherry tomato. I want to grow this tomato this year, but of course didn’t plan ahead. For instance I didn’t buy seeds. I didn’t start them indoors. And I didn’t transplant them to bigger pots a week ago. Hmm no wonder I don’t have any little Sun Gold plants. I wonder if I can find them as transplants around here. I asked at my favorite gardening shop, but she didn’t know and they didn’t have the 2008 list yet this year that shows all available plants. They had last year's list. The gal said it would probably be the same. But there are Sweet Millions in the greenhouse as 4” pots right now and they aren’t on last year’s list. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to call around, and stop at any place I see. Hmm I wonder if Verrill Farms sells transplants. ….. Well it turns out they do. Yeah! They have 32 varieties of tomatoes for sale, but you have to order them in advance. However there were still my Sun Golds available. I ordered three of them and one Orange Blossom and one Aussie. Sadly they were out of their pepper plants already, but I can always pick some up elsewhere. They require a general pick up date (though they said I don’t have to be exact about it). I picked May 15th, the earliest date they sell them. I figure Sun Golds are supposed to be pretty cold hardy little things and I wanted to get them in as soon as possible. Of course I’ll regret that if May turns out to be cold and rainy. But you never know here in the northeast. Some years are hot and sunny some cold and rainy. Plant lots of hot and cold weather crops and something will grow. Hmm I was only going to plant 4 of tomatoes. I wonder if I really have room for all 5?

Well that little procrastination problem was fixed. My other one was ordering from Pinetree on April 12th, instead of earlier when I should have. Now I had picked up packets at the garden centers and ordered from Johnny’s earlier. I wasn’t going to get any more. I was just going to pick up some six packs of flowers to fill in most of my garden. But then I decided I couldn’t live without trying more Asian greens. I really don’t NEED flowers in my garden. So I placed an order of well….not just Asian greens. I can withhold my orders when I order from Johnny’s. Their seeds are expensive, but Pinetree had small inexpensive packets. For just $1.10 more I can buy some eggplant. That is worth it. Right? OK so I don’t like eggplant, but a veggie that beautiful has to taste good. Maybe this year I’ll like it. And oh yum, I can plant some Yard Long Beans, just $1.30. They may not be Asian greens but they are Asian, so they fit the theme. And hmm why not some Lemon Basil and some Holy Basil. They are green and Asian – sort of, right? Then I added some radishes, both daikon and regular; then some turnips. How the Kentucky Wonder Wax Bean got in there I will never know. I already bought Fortex from Johnny’s, and of course the Yard Long Beans. What the heck am I going to do with another pole bean?

So yesterday I was delighted when Joel told me a package came in the mail. I knew it was from Pinetree. I quickly threw some potting mix into a six pack and plunked in my eggplant seeds. They will be late into the garden. But I don’t care. I have Sun Gold transplants on order so the world is rosy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hope Springs Eternal

I was bad today. I went to Lexington Gardens to buy some herbs to add my herb bed. I got some lemon thyme, some garlic chives, “hardy” rosemary, and some chamomile seeds. Now they keep these plants in the greenhouse. So they really need to be hardened off before I put them in, but did I? No. I just plopped them right in the ground and watered them. Did I wait for evening until at least it wasn’t horribly sunny anymore? No of course not. They went in the ground at noon. Now I’m not sure that it is possible to kill garlic chives. I’ve had them before in my garden. I got tired of them self seeding all over the garden. Their little seedlings would never just pull up for me. If I pulled the stem, it would break. I always needed a trowel to pull it up. Ok so why in the world would I plant them again if I hated them before? Well I figured this time I would wait to pull up the seedlings and then when they got big enough, pull them up bulb and all and eat them that way. And of course intellectually I remember how annoying they were to me, but emotionally I’ve forgotten the pain. Gardening is a vanguard of hope.

Another chore for today was dividing one of my hostas. I needed 6 more hosta plants. I planted six blueberry plants recently and wanted the hostas to edge them. These are large blue hostas, whose names have long since been forgotten. I planted them along the rock wall on the NE side of the blueberries. Since I divided the hosta into 8 parts and put one part back, I had one more hosta plant. I had many places to put it, but finally decided to put it in the veggie garden edging my row closest to the chimney. The house has termite protection around the foundation and I have to keep the veggies at least 10 feet away from it. I’ve always planted flower there before, but the weeds from the path have a tendency to intrude. I figure the hosta is up for the challenge. Most weeds won’t have a chance against it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Hot Day

I had to water the garden today. We have had beautiful weather. Sunny and warm. Yesterday it was in the mid 80s and we haven’t had rain for 11 days. Way too long. It is great weather to be out in the garden, but not so good for the plants.

The first cabbage worm moths visited today. They were dancing together over my brassica plants. Their antics always make me laugh. Luckily I have all my brassica family plants under a row cover. Lots of other fun insects were out too. My dog Kayla wanted to eat the bee flies and the bumble bees. I try to keep her from doing this, though it is a favorite pastime for her in the summer. She has a tendency to forget she is in MY garden and trample the plants. I can usually train her to (mostly) stay on the paths, but she is full of exuberance and just can’t contain herself. I keep telling her she is 10 years old, but she won’t believe it.

Even though my bok choi is covered, it is still getting holes chewed in it. I suspect slugs. So I sprinkled some diatomaceous earth around the plants. Hopefully this will deter them for a bit. Well at least until it rains again and that probably won’t be until Saturday night and if we are unlucky, not until Tuesday.