Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kale's not over when it starts to bolt

Gardening can sometimes be a sadistic hobby.  The rewards are there, oh yes, but reaping them often involves a merciless and random gauntlet of abuse delivered by mother nature:  A brutally cold winter followed by an unseasonably cold and WET Spring.  A plague of SLUGS that gleefully eat the tops off sprouting peas.  Unknown forces that make cabbage starts lose the will to live. .....I could go on.

I went out to the Sauvies garden plot today.  In 43 degrees and pouring rain I planted leek starts and radish seeds.  I replanted peas (1/3rd of which had rotted since early march) and put out slug bait, cursing all the while.

The brassica starts that were planted late last summer (those that survived) have had enough.  Instead of providing lush Spring growth, they are putting their last bit of energy into bolting-- the plant way of saying, "I'm tired and I'm done with this life.  Here's some seed.  Good luck to the next generation."

I discovered last year that these sprouts from bolting kale are good to eat.  Like tiny heads of broccoli, just as tender but with stronger flavor, they are nutritious and thrifty way of getting at least something out of kale that would otherwise be pulled and tossed in the compost.

Sauteed in a little grape seed oil with garlic, kale shoots are quite tasty.
The saving grace of my gardening endeavour today.

Here's to warmer weather.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Morels of the Story

"Hello my little friend..."

A late afternoon break in the rain and a trip to...... um, where I like to go looking for Spring morel mushrooms, yielded just two of the little critters.  It's early.  I guess.  I'm still relatively new to morel hunting and am still trying to pinpoint the actual season, which I'm finding must be late March into mid-April.  With this year's (and last year's as well) unseasonably cool weather, it seems that the season may be on the late side.

Spotting these little brainy looking fungi is tough on the eyes.  Unlike bright golden Chanterelles growing in dark forest duff, morels bear almost the same color as the grey-brown cottonwood leaves that they emerge from.  Making things even more sporting, they also like to take cover amongst blackberry thickets.  I rarely return from morel hunting without at least one scratch somewhere.  

  I hauled home "the bounty" of two.  Sauteed in butter with garlic, they where tasty with the braised pork we had for dinner.  I just hope I can get more.  Please.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Solanaceae, the heat lovers

Finally time to break out the heat pads and start tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos.  

I use just regular old heat pads (the kind used for human injuries) instead of seed starting mats.  As long as it isn't a sunny day (in which case, I usually don't need the heat pads), the medium setting generates a toasty 80-95 degree temp range that will germinate the tomatoes and tomatillos usually within 3-4 days time.  Peppers take about a week.

I make a sort of "mini greenhouse" out of used, plastic, salad green bins with lids.  Lids are off or ajar during the day (again, depends on how sunny or cloudy it is under the skylight) and back on again at night to keep heat in as temps drop into the low 60's in our house.

This year, in anticipation of providing for 4 families, I've started 24 tomatoes, about 15 peppers and 8 tomatillos to be planted out, weather permitting (and fingers crossed) mid-late May.

Most of the above method is fairly old hat for me.  However, the new twist is that instead of using coco grow pellets, I've made mini "cow pots" (see February post) out of paper towels.  These will be up-potted into the larger "cow pots" as soon as they get a set of their true leaves.

Here's to making tomato sauce, using hopefully our own tomatoes, green peppers, garlic and onions, come September......

180 onions

Okay, so these images are underwhelming for sure....but just wanted to blog the onion starts that Amy, Chelsea and I planted out on March 5th.  We planted about 60 each of Cippolini, Red Torpedo and Copra.

Also planted that day (which BTW, was lovely and mostly sunny), arugula and spinach.

Lola vs. Orange Nosed Snowman

"Darn you orange nosed snowman!"

"How you taunt me behind my back while eating."

Your fluffy orange nose, just out of reach. How it vexes me!"

"My sister made you. All the more reason to try to destroy you"

"I will try every day......"

"Some day I will get you!....."


"Victory is mine!"

"Mommy with her Elmer's glue has saved you. But you will forever carry the signs of my wrath!"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And then there was one.....

I really don't like this part of starting seeds.  "Culling" is what I think of it.

 I always overcompensate on germanation rates and plant at least three seeds per starter.  Most of the time, unless the seed is a few years old, they all come up.  I only need one per pod.  I just can never bring myself to plant just one seed.  

So "snip"goes the small, the misshapen, the late and the "leggy".  Sometimes, if all three are of equal vigor, it's just the luck of the draw......

They do not perish in vain.  They make right tasty little broccoli flavored sprouts.....

 And the lucky ones grow on.....

Hellebourus.....the tough little beauties in my yard

Despite looking almost dead the other day with record cold temps, the hellebore around the yard have all recovered.  

Hellebore flowers droop downward.  Most of these photos were taken from below, leaving the framing up to chance.

 A little "color accent" feature fun with "Pink Lady" who grows near the front steps.

 This one was given to me by Des, Damon's mom.  I don't know the name but it is really pretty....

 Still pretty, even splattered with mud from the last deluge.
 Still unfurling......
 The flowers will peak soon......
Then, about May,  they will give over their energy to new leaves and the cycle starts again.