30 March 2009

an ounce of prevention...

i knew a freeze was predicted last night. i thought of bringing the salad box in, or at least covering it. but, i was really tired from getting up early to see our guests off, for their early morning flight back to L.A.

i went to bed early, and thought of the delicate little seedlings outside, not one bit.
woke up to some frost covered plants, and more regret than i can handle this morning. we'll find out later who survived. right now, it's too soon to tell.

22 March 2009

mon cheri

i don't know if spring is actually coming early this year, or if it is just a matter of perception, or, if i am going to get a rude awaking with 3 inches of snow in a week. all i know is i've been digging and planting and hovering over seed beds and choosing the next section of lawn to dig up for garden expansion, like it's mid april. i'm a lot more cocky this year. i'm not so fearful of frost. i know the vegetables that don't mind a little cold, and i've planted them. we've had a few nights of below freezing temps since then, but everything is doing great.

indoors, i've started brandywine tomatoes (from seeds i saved last fall), cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers and hot peppers, poppies, and husk cherries. i found out later that the poppies could have just been direct seeded outside. they germinated quickly, and are growing like weeds. besides the poppies, the brandywines were the first to come up (let's hear it for heirlooms!). my farmer friend, amy, warned me that peppers can be difficult to germinate. they need warmth. so, i set a heat lamp over them, and a heating pad underneath. at one point i stuck a thermometer in the soil, and it was over 90 degrees. eventually they came up, and i'll tell ya, i felt so proud!

the last one to germinate was the husk cherry. i first encountered this lovely fruit when i was in switzerland for a semester abroad as a graduate student. i found them growing on the grounds of the villa where we lived and had our studio. they have a husk over them, sort of like a tomatillo (their close relative) but it's small, golden, and looks like a paper lantern. inside the husk is a marble-sized, orange-colored berry. being a brazen forager, of course, i tasted one. i could tell it was edible because it was so delicious. later i found them in a candy store, the paper husk still attached, but pulled back, and twisted above the berry, which was dipped in smooth, dark, swiss chocolate. wow. Link
since then, i've been searching for information about this plant. i would tell people about it, draw (and paint, see above) pictures of it, but no one would know what i was talking about. i found some growing in a park in chicago, but still didn't know the name. when i saw them featured in johnney's seed catalog, i decided i had to try to grow them. i figure, if they can grow in chicago, they can grow here. they are also known as cape gooseberry, ground cherry, and they had a very cute name in the swiss candy shop, which i cannot remember. in my bastardization of the french language (though we were in the italian part of switzerland), i refer to them as mon cheri.

what new plants are you experimenting with in your garden, this year?

11 March 2009

do i really want to know?

i added an inexpensive soil testing kit with my seeds order this year, thinking it would be good to know what's lacking in our garden soil, rather than just shooting in the dark. when it arrived though, i was hesitant to use it, since i had already started working beds, and planting seeds. do i really want to know how bad it is? am i going to do what's required to amend the soil? doubtful. i'll probably just keep adding compost, leaf mold, an occasional bag of peat, and hope for the best.

after reading the instructions though, i decided it would be fun to do the test with carl (we both enjoy playing scientist) and if we don't end up adding anything special to our garden beds, then at least we know which nutrients (or lack thereof) to blame if our plants don't thrive.

we did the test. it was indeed fun. maybe we'll add something to one bed, as an experiment, and maybe we won't.

in other news, the arugula has already sprouted, and so has some of the lettuce and spinach in the salad box. expected lows in the twenties for tonight and tomorrow, so i'll bring the salad box indoors, close the cold frame, and cover the other beds, and our baby lilac, which has already started opening its buds.

has anyone else in our neck of the woods started gardening yet?

p.s. today is the one year anniversary for this garden blog!

07 March 2009


i guess my garden blogging is as seasonal as my garden. we've had two days of spring-like weather, and now, I'M BACK, BABY! here's a couple of shots of the garden, and the cold frame, buried deep in snow.

re: the cold frame
i failed to understand that the sunlight falls in different places in the winter, than it does in the summer. thus, my lovely cold frame was in full shade all winter long. it is shaded by the building (our storage space/art studio) just south of the bed. needless to say, there was not much going on in there all winter. however, two broccoli plants, 3 kale, one parsley, and a micro lettuce sprout did survive to see the sunlight, which is now beginning to fall on that box.

i guess it will make a good place to get an early start on some plants. plus, carl spotted one little broccoli flower! i sowed some arugula seeds in there yesterday, and started a salad box on the porch, with cold-loving greens.

today, the warmest one yet (at 75 degrees!), i spent most of the day outside, in the garden. my seed order arrived too, along with a new rain gage for carl, and an inexpensive soil testing kit. i don't know if i have the courage to test the soil. i don't really want to know how bad it is...


last fall i went to a worm composting workshop at the wonderlab, where, for $10, i got information about vermiculture, and came home with a worm-composting system, including the worms. the bin is made from 3 five-gallon buckets, with holes drilled in the lid, as well as the bottoms of two of the buckets. i've been feeding the worms all winter, and keeping them in the insulated studio. they've done really well, and have been very easy to deal with. today, i dumped the buckets, and attempted to sort worms, bedding and half-eaten food from the worm castings, which are the good stuff, for the garden. it was a bit tedious, but i ended up with a dump truck full of compost. a tonka truck load, that is. i haven't decided which bed with get this yummy treat.

i also tried to turn one of our compost bins, and dug out some (mostly)composted stuff from the bottom of the bin. i spread that on a bed that i think i'll fill with spinach and other spring greens. the main garden area that i worked and planted last year is okay for some things, but once the oak tree fills out, it gets too much shade. so, i'm thinking it is a good spot for the early greens and peas. and, in spite of the lack of full sun, beans, carrots, tomatoes and basil did fine there last year. i moved my pea trellis, and planted peas!