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Cilantro and Dill in my Small Kitchen Garden

Looking north, over the margin of my new herb bed, you can see a scraggly sage bush that I transplanted last fall. I didn’t ask for any of the other plants in the photo, and so they are weeds. By planting cilantro in this space, I will eventually cast shade onto the sage, but only in afternoons; every plant in the herb bed will have direct sunlight until noon.

The herb bed I created last autumn in my small kitchen garden has been doing just fine with all the rain. Unfortunately, I haven’t been particularly clever about the herb bed. While I’ve enjoyed two harvests of tarragon and the thyme and sage are coming on strong, I’ve left the rest of the herb garden untouched. I could have been planting it!

I created the herb bed in a high spot, and I mounded it so it hasn’t held water the way my vegetable bed does. I could have set more perennial herbs in the new bed, and I could have seeded annuals as far back as a month ago!

A Small Kitchen Garden Project

It was rainless and sunny this morning, so my mind sprinted to gardening. When I examined the herb bed, I was impressed at the progress weeds had made. Not a problem; about 60 seconds with a hoe freshened the section I wanted to plant and in about five minutes I had broadcast a small area with cilantro seeds.

In my small kitchen garden there is mud where soil should be. Still, the seeds from last season’s prolific dill plants have sprouted, and there are hundreds of seedlings like the ones in this photo.

To transplant dill seedlings, I selected small clusters in the driest part of my main planting bed. With a hand trowel, I dug two- to three-inches deep, preserving the roots of the dill seedlings inside of cohesive clumps of mud.

Then I turned attention to the highest corner of my vegetable bed. I hoped it might be dry enough to handle some lettuce seedlings. It wasn’t. But as I raked it smooth I noticed a whole bunch of fern-like seedlings: volunteer dill plants!

The muddy, saturated soil had nurtured hundreds of dill plants sprouted from seeds that fell last year. I work around the volunteers when they don’t seriously restrict my planting options. But with the constant rain this year (more than double the average rainfall for spring), I wonder if all I’ll be able to grow reasonably will be volunteers.

An Add-On Gardening Project

Ever the optimist, I thought to salvage some dill plants from the vegetable bed. I may yet plant peas in the main bed along with lettuce, cauliflower, and broccoli seedlings that are ever more anxious to escape from their planters.

So, in case real gardening happens this spring, I excavated several soil clumps holding dill seedlings from the main planting bed. These I set into the herb bed alongside the newly-planted cilantro seeds. I rescued only a dozen dill plants, but from past experience, that’s plenty to get my family through the season. And, if the main vegetable bed ever dries out enough to plant, I’m confident more volunteer dill will sprout and rise above whatever vegetables I put in.

For any particular clump of dill seedlings, I dug a hole in my herb bed just a tad larger than the mud clump. In the photo on the left, you can see two of the transplanted dill clumps near the top of the frame, and the clump I’m about to plant just left of the hole and slightly in front of it. I set a mud clump in the hole I dug for it, then gently filled around it with soil from the herb bed. It wouldn’t matter if a little soil got on top of a mud clump, but my goal was to set the top of each clump about even with the soil line of the herb planting bed. With all the moisture and a little care to keep the mud clumps intact along with their dill seedlings, it’s unlikely the seedlings will experience even a hint of transplant shock.

What was Nutmeg, the gardening puppy from hell, doing while I was planting annual herbs? She started her own garden bed. Up against the retaining wall of my vegetable garden, Nutmeg discovered standing water. She quickly excavated all greenery from the area and rolled around in what remained: mud. I’m hoping she’ll expand her garden bed to the south and gnaw away at the mulberry tree that I’ve cut out each of the past 14 years. She’ll have way more fun removing it this year than I will.

 

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