10 November 2008

black gold

just as compost bin #2 is filled to capacity, compost bin #1 is ready to begin again.
we "harvested" our first batch of compost! we started bin #1 about a year ago, and this week, we scooped it out, and spread it on some garden beds (i learned from carol that the best time to prepare spring beds, is in the fall). the compost is probably not completely composted, but i think it is okay to work it into the beds, and let it sit over the winter. now we put our kitchen scraps, garden waste and layers of straw into bin #1 again. full circle.

we also dug into our leaf mold compost pile, and that stuff is delicious (no, i didn't taste it...)! last fall we piled up all the leaves from our yard in one spot, and just let it sit there all winter, and all summer. that mountain of crackly leaves, from one gigantic oak, and one enormous maple, over the course of a year, shrunk down to about 2 wheelbarrows full of dark, loamy, leaf compost. i wish we had a leaf shredder, it would speed things up. but our method worked out, and our garden beds can sure use the nutrients.

28 October 2008

last gasp

first frost is upon us (it happened last night), a full 7 days past the official predicted date of october 20. i grabbed these zinnias and cosmos for a final bouquet, and brought the container plants inside. i'll try to get the garlic planted today.

as a consolation prize, we get to look at this beautiful thing from our back porch:

23 October 2008

frost date

we've past the predicted first frost date of october 20 and it still has not been down to freezing yet, here. i'm sad to report that many of the greens in the cold frame are refusing to grow. i know the soil is pretty good, so i guess it just doesn't get enough sun in that spot this time of year. the broccoli and kale is doing great though, so i can't complain really. but i do anyway because arugula is my new favorite green, it is easy to grow, two of my neighbors have large, healthy plants, and mine just seem stunted at the seedling stage. luckily, said neighbors are generous.

i've been happy with the carrot crop. a good percentage of them are still in the ground. they are stubby but delicious. i had reported earlier that cosmo didn't like them, but that has changed. if i peel them, and slice them into "carrot coins" he gobbles them up. they are perfect on a fresh salad too.

our crazy, volunteer tomato plants, growing from the compost bin, are still producing lovely tomatoes long after our other ones have withered. i even saw some blossoms on one of them yesterday!

the peas i planted are doing well, growing fast, but i doubt we'll get any peas off of them. the plants are supposed to be frost resistant, but i bet the blossoms are not. we'll see how far they get before it turns really cold.

finally, i planted a small herb garden to bring indoors for the winter. i've become accustomed to those fresh herbs, and don't want to do without them in the cold months.

anybody else out there doing some fall/winter gardening?

17 September 2008

recycled cold frame

cold frame construction is as complicated as you make it. my plans simplified once i realized that the purpose is to warm the soil and block wind. i was wondering if i needed to bury the sides into the earth, and if so, how far? but i spoke with an experienced local gardener/farmer and she assured me that i just needed to place the box on top of the soil, tilt the windows toward the south, and that should do the trick. then my plans got complicated when i realized how tall a broccoli plant gets (about two feet!). my salvaged windows were dictating the width and depth of my box, and the broccoli was determining the height, but when i got the whole thing put together, out of these honkin' 2"x 8" and 2"x 12" boards, it looked like a tunnel, or a large, narrow coffin-- the place where all good plants go to die. i took one look at it, once it was all screwed together and flipped over, and cried, "i can't grow plants in there!" i put the windows on anyway, and couldn't deny it had rather striking form, (i didn't think to photograph it) but it was still not a suitable place for a winter garden. the whole point is to maximize sunlight, and the tall sides would have shaded the plants. i should have remembered from architecture school, the importance of building a model. sometimes it is the only way to clearly visualize what you're building, before you build it.

i considered burying the lower half of it, to make it shorter that way, but soon came to my senses, and decided that taking off a row of 2"x 12" boards would solve the problem. it was easy enough to do that, and then i set the shorter structure on a row of bricks i had salvaged from another demolition site. i am pretty sure that what i have now will work just fine, and i rather like the look of the old paint on the brick.

as it turns out, almost everything was recycled, salvaged or reused. the hinges are from some old cabinet doors, carl spotted them at a flea market in gnaw bone. i bought one long, two-by-four, and those huge boards i took off the cold frame had been purchased as new lumber. i'll turn those into a sturdy shelf to hold all those home-canned goodies we've been squirreling away (see my other blog for more on that).

i've been covering the broccoli and kale with floating row cover, to keep the cabbage moths from laying eggs on them. i had been pulling dozens of those green cabbage worms off of the half eaten leaves, every time i took a look at them. my summer kale was completely demolished by those guys. the cover is not pretty, but it does seem to work.

04 September 2008

fall garden

the fall garden is planted, and includes arugula, lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, and peas. those arugula seeds germinated in TWO DAYS! crazy. i worked over half of the edamame bed, and plan to build a cold frame out of some old windows and lumber we salvaged from a renovation and a demolition site. i am still researching the best way to construct it with what i have.

our yard is still sprinkled with summer color, though the cheery brown-eyed susans are fading fast. i cut a bouquet yesterday, and brought it into the house. the marigolds i started from seed took some time to establish themselves, but they're in full swing right now. they are easy to overlook, since everyone seems to have them, and their primary job in the garden is to deter pests. i noticed yesterday how lovely they are.

our top-heavy sunflowers may not fulfill their duties, but i still have hope. i know some birds who would really enjoy those seeds.

25 August 2008


the leaves on the edamame were starting to turn yellow. most of the pods looked ready to harvest, so i clipped all of the plants at their bases, and stripped the pods off the stems. next i boiled the pods for 5 minutes, dried them in the salad spinner, bagged them and put them in the freezer. we ended up with a little over 5 lbs total, which turns out to be 3 full gallon size freezer bags. each plant had between 7 and 16 pods, with the average being around 10. most of them were fat, and ready, but a few seemed over the hill, and some were tiny, but still yummy. i was amazed at the large amount of biomass (of leaves and stems) compared to the small amount of edamame pods.




bag & freeze

cosmo ate a mess of 'em yesterday. it's one of the only vegetables he truly loves, so i am thrilled to have a freezer full of home-grown.

since soybean roots fix nitrogen, i left them in the ground to enrich the soil. soon i will turn the bed and plant some fall crops like lettuce, spinach & arugula. i hope to build some sort of a cold frame for over-wintering some chard, kale and maybe a few hardy herbs. i'll also be planting some garlic in october.

14 August 2008


we harvested our first handful of edamame pods last night, and promptly par-boiled and ate them. so delicious. sweet, nutty and fresh. i told carl i didn't think i'd ever had edamame that was not previously frozen. cosmo kept asking for more. luckily, there's plenty more out there. they need a few more days to mature, and then i think i will harvest them all at once, farmer-style, instead of hand picking each and every pod that looks ready. i had to cover them with floating row covers when i discovered rabbits camping out in there on a regular basis. it's not pretty, but those beans underneath sure are.

i dug up a carrot and found that indeed, those lush, green, feathery plants do have bulging orange roots in the ground. seems they need a bit more room to fill out, so i did some thinning. i thought cosmo would be really into the carrots. i was wrong.

our pole beans were incredibly successful, and are still producing. they strike a dashing figure in the garden too, on their too tall tee-pee poles.

we've enjoyed a crazy sweet and plentiful harvest of cherry tomatoes, and those brandywines are gorgeous, and yummy. let's hear it for heirlooms!

there's a section in one of my cook books called the beautiful tomato salads of summer i think i need to look that one up.

11 July 2008


it's mid july, and the garden is thriving. it has been cooler here than expected, but we've had our share of very warm days. we have tomatoes growing on every plant, and have harvested the first few cherry tomatoes. the first one we ceremoniously cut into thirds so we could each have a taste. they are sweet and delicious!

were still eating peas, but they are almost done. the green bean plants are climbing high on their teepee poles, and a few small beans can be found hiding under the leaves.

the carrots look great above ground. no idea what's going on underneath. the beets look less healthy, and our kale is rather pathetic. i suspect a combination of poor soil, and lack of sun. the plot is not technically in full sun. luckily, the bed with the tomatoes seems to get enough. we've enjoyed a steady harvest of lettuce, though i imagine it will be bolting soon. we've been cooking with all the herbs we're growing, and i even got another thyme plant from the farmer's market, because the little one i had just couldn't keep up with the demand from our kitchen.

peas and carrots

the edamame is growing taller and seems to be healthy and happy. japanese beetles have been visiting the bed, but so far, they haven't done too much damage. i've been hand picking them off as i spot them.

we've had a constant bloom of flowers all around the yard, including a stunning (and very tall) breadseed poppy i received from the neighborhood plant exchange.

right now we have day lillies, echinacea (purple coneflower), cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums, chamomile and the brown-eyed susans are about to bloom.





is it time to start thinking about fall crops? i started more of the purple bunching onions, and have some garlic ordered for october planting. maybe i'll try some kale and chard in a different location. i'd like to make a cold frame, and overwinter a few hardy edibles.

how does YOUR garden grow?

13 June 2008

peas please

it's pea season. cosmo has harvested the first few, and shared a couple of the peas with us. he loves them, and gets so excited when another one is ready to be picked. i remember his first peas off the vine last year, in houston, at the mandel community garden.

there is not much in this world that is prettier than a pea plant. those squiggly tendrils, reaching for the sky (or a strand of string), heart-shaped leaves, cupped around the winding vine, delicate, understated blossoms, and that pod! so adorable, with it's little elf cap. pluck, unzip and part the shell, to reveal nature's perfection. an organized row of tender green spheres. pop 'em in your mouth. just like candy.

in other news, the edamame came up about four days after planting! we had torrential rains here the day after i sowed them, and i worried they would wash away. but they were fine. it was clear and sunny the next day, rained the following day, and i guess that was just what they needed. here are shots when they first popped up, and today, with their second set of leaves (already? ahh, they grow up so fast...).

we've got cherry tomatoes setting on the vine, and i have been harvesting the purple bunching onions that i started from seed. we enjoyed some last night, with a medley of roasted vegetables.

it figures that the healthiest, fastest growing plant in the garden is one that planted itself, in the compost. here is one of the pumpkins (or melons, or squash?) taking off in the compost.